09 February 2013

Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park

Wow!  I am simply blown away by the beauty of this place.

Not having a feel for how the park works, we headed straight for the park's headquarters.  Mooring balls are the preferred method of 'anchoring' in the park, thus limiting the disturbance of the sea bed.  Park headquarters are located at Warderick Wells.  The north mooring field is a stunning vista.  Unfortunately for us, we booked a less than stellar mooring ball.  It treated us okay, until the tide change.  The outgoing current, together with the wind had our boat sitting almost exactly sideways to the surge coming in from the ocean.  This just won't do, we had to move.  Just before sunset we grabbed our new mooring at Emerald Rock.

Our time at headquarters was not wasted, we had gathered exactly how we wanted to spend our day.  We had time to get school done before slack tide.  Then it was into the dinghy and race to the coral gardens located in front of headquarters.  Slack tide is not a long time, but long enough for a nice swim.    As the current began to switch Macara got a good look at her first Spotted Eagle Rays.

After a couple nights at Warderick Wells we followed the Exuma Bank down to Cambridge Cay.  Our original plan was to grab a spot close to Little Halls Pond Cay (a private island owned by Johnny Depp).  We snorkelled for a bit, but were never really satisfied with our anchorage and soon lifted anchor and picked up a mooring ball a little further south at Cambridge Cay.

Just east of the southern tip of Little Halls Pond Cay, there is a spot marked on the charts called 'Sea Aquarium'.  It's a snorkelling site with a pair of dinghy mooring floats.  I can safely say that I have done a fair bit of diving throughout the Caribbean.  This location ranks right up there as one of the best dive sites that I have ever been on.  And you can snorkel it.  We will be back!  The only down side, there was a barracuda there that did not appreciate my camera.  It stalked me all over the dive.  Posturing and being very aggressive towards me.  A very uncomfortable feeling.  Give me a shark any day.

Being our first time in the Exumas, we are kind of darting around here and there, trying to get a feel for the place.  Hoping to quickly figure out where we want to spend some time.  Georgetown better be amazing, because I am liking what I am seeing right now.

Tonight we are anchored west of Big Majors Spot.  There are pigs on the beach.  They swim out to your dinghy begging for food.  Swimming pigs, that's pretty novel.  We brought a couple carrots for them.  Just around the south side of the island is Thunderball Grotto of James Bond fame.  Of course, I will have to dive that!

But, that is tomorrow.

05 February 2013

This is what we came for.

Nassau continued...

We had our day of fun at Atlantis Resort, but we had a few more things to take care of before blasting off towards the Exumas.  The folks at the Atlantis Marina were ever so helpful, so we decided to take advantage of that.  We needed some produce to go along with our 2 freezers full of red meat and 30 cases of beer.  No problem, they ordered us a taxi and told us that we will find everything that we are looking for at the market.  I still had Nassau of 20 years ago on the brain and I was thinking we were headed to a farmers market or something.  Nope, a supermarket as fine as any grocery store that we usually shop in back home.  And some of the prices were better.  Pleasantly, surprised.  

Our next task, a cell phone.  I am starting to feel like an international spy with my collection of pay as you go phones.  No long term contracts here.  I needed a new phone anyway.  $30 a month for data and then put on a few bucks for voice.  Use the minutes as you go.  I now have my Canadian, US and Bahamian phones all charged and on the ready.

Last minute chores taken care of and the weather letting up, it seems like it is time to move on.  Exumas here we come!!!

As it turns out, our weather window was not quite as clear as we had lead ourselves to believe.  We were hoping to get off the dock eventually, but after all the wind and the chop, we were easily lured into a very nice little marina offering Super Bowl specials.  Sounds like fun, count us in.

This is the Bahamas that we have been looking for, an open air restaurant with a big screen TV serving island pub specials and sharing the Super Bowl with some 25 other cruisers.  Good fun!

With the cold front now through, the next week appears to be offering a steady weather pattern.  Finally, we are off the dock!

First stop, Norman’s Cay.  

During the 80’s, Norman’s Cay was the epitome of Bahamas’ drug problem.  Owned by Columbian drug lord Carlos Leder, this is the place where allegedly a few cruisers meet their hostile demise coming too close to his operation.  
I doubt this guy was delivering care packages to the needy.
At home under the wreckage.
Today, Norman’s Cay offers several fine anchorages to fit almost any wind direction.  Sounds good to us.

After school lets out, it is time for a little snorkelling.
Look... treasure!
Just before climbing back in the dinghy, I found this brute.  Our first lobster!  This guy fed us dinner, then lobster omelets, then lobster salad sandwiches and he is still good to go for more omelets again tomorrow morning.

One heckuva big lobster.
 Good night...
Anchored at Norman's Cay.

01 February 2013

Halfway to Oh No

It's official... our year long journey is half over.  Not to worry though, we are just getting to the good part.

We left Bimini on the 28th of January.  We fished for the first hour or so.  No luck.  We are proving to be the worst sportfish on the water.  The wahoo are biting,  just not for us.  We crossed onto the Great Bahamas Bank at Gun Cay and started making our way for Chub Cay.  We had a 20knot breeze directly on our nose and once again Knot Yet proved her worth.  Others had a lot less pleasant ride than we did.  My original plan was to drop anchor in behind the reef at the Northwest Passage, only to find that it offered a lot less protection than I had envisioned.  To heck with that idea, we dropped the hammers and made the extra hour run to Chub Cay Marina.  It is a lot more fun trying to imagine how rough it might have been out on the hook, rather than living it.  A quick washdown of the boat, a nice dinner aboard and then slide up the marina bar for a couple Goombay Smashes.  A long day on the water is soon forgotten.

There is a fair bit of open water between Chub Cay and our next destination of Nassau.  The weatherman told us to hold tight for one more day, so we did.  The girls got to school work first thing in the morning and I went for a walk about the island.  Upon my return, there was a gentleman sniffing out our Canadian flag and checking our dinghy davits, so I introduce myself.  He is from Montreal and only on his 5th day on the water.  Conversation soon drifted to scuba diving and he made mention of having ties to the wreck of the Empress of Ireland.  He invites me over for a drink later that evening with plans to talk diving.  I gladly accept.

A family day.  Today is one of the good days.  The boat is in good shape, provisions are full, school work is done, let's go have some fun.  My morning walk convinced me that there would be some good snorkelling right outside the marina, so we load up the dinghy and out we go.  Our visit to the Shark Lab in Bimini is already showing instant returns.  As Macara started to roll out of the dinghy she asks, "What type of sharks are there here"?  "None, maybe a Nurse shark, if any", I replied.  That was good enough, in she jumped.  The girl is learning so much and making her own decisions.  I love it!

After snorkelling, there was still plenty of afternoon left, so we decided to take in a little beach time.  The view was kinda nice.

Happiness is sinking in and it looks good on her.

Back to the boat for a quick shower and I mix myself a drink and saunter over to Phil's boat to chat some diving.  Phil turns out to be a very interesting man.  He knows a lot of the big names in the scuba industry.  The reason, his ties to the wreck of the Empress of Ireland.  A fairly technical dive, even by today's standards, Phil was making his first dives in the early days of scuba diving.  As a result, he amassed a very large collection of artifacts from the wreck, including the ship's bell.  All of which are now in a museum in Ottawa.  Phil is now embarking on a new phase of his life, cruising the world and documenting the wonders of the sea on video.

With a cold front on it's way, Thursday is our weather window to push on to Nassau.

A 'few' years ago, Kerri and I Honeymooned on New Providence.  Diving everyday we never got off the resort.  That is how we liked to travel.  With dive travel trips, you cannot dive the day before your flight.  You need to ensure that all the nitrogen is out of your body before going up in the atmosphere.  It's a sneaky way to get 'the bends'.  Anyway, I had in my back pocket a plan to take her into the city for dinner on Paradise Island.  As it turned out, it was way to hot to want to do anything, but sit on the beach.  So, I never brought up my plan for dinner.  Some months later, I see a special on TV featuring the Atlantis Resort and I make the rookie mistake of mentioning that I planned on taking her out for dinner there on Honeymoon.  Well, I finally made good on it.

To say the Atlantis Resort is impressive, is like saying the Grand Canyon is a nice ditch.  The place is massive.  Everything is larger than life.  It truly is fun for the whole family.

You have your casinos and night clubs and fine dining, but you also have a water park that sprawls all over the resort.  There is an aquarium like I have never seen before.  They have lagoons where you can swim with dolphins or another one where you can snorkel with stingrays.  But, for me the highlight is a giant water slide that takes you through the middle of a shark tank.  And not just one way, there are two different slides that pass through the middle of the tank.

The high speed method.  A 60ft near vertical drop sends you body surfing through the tank.  You don't see a damn thing, but what a rush.  Kerri was almost in tears laughing as I dragged my sorry butt out of the pool.  I guess there was a bit of terror written all over my face.  I had to do it just one more time, just to save my honour.  My butt still hurts from hitting the water so fast.

The more leisurely method puts you on a inner-tube and you corkscrew down the same 60ft, but at a much more controlled pace and then gently glide through the shark tank.  If you actually want to see the sharks up close, this is the way to go.  The girls actually had one of the Nurse sharks resting on top of the acrylic tube as they passed through.

That cold front that I was talking about made water sports a little less appealing, but this place is so amazing we all jumped in happily.  This evening, the wind is blowing a good 20-25knots, so it doesn't look like we will move for another day or two.  Let's see what kind of fun we can find here in Nassau.  For only money, they will let you do almost anything.