14 May 2013

It's Official... We are on our way home.

We are heading home.  Those are hard words to say.  Our dream trip is drawing to a close.  We are on our way home.  Albeit slowly.

After our rude little wake-up call at Staniel Cay and discovering we had Immigration issues, we ran up to Nassau to 'check in'.  It was in Nassau that I decided to make up for a perceived lack of diving.  A couple days of shark diving seemed in order.  Kerri and I honeymooned at the now run down South Ocean resort right next to Stuart Cove.  That was my first shark dive, I have been hooked ever since.  I have upgraded my camera gear somewhat since then.  It was time to go back and get some better pictures for myself.

This time I got to shoot my own video as well, thanks to GoPro.  I just clamped that little sucker onto my strobe arms and videoed while I took stills.  This was my first attempt.  I will work on my editing skills, I promise.  Maybe even find some background music.
It was also in Nassau that I got to hook up with an old friend.  As well as honeymooning in the Bahamas, I have done six dive liveaboards out here.  It was on these liveaboards that this tiny obsession got started.  I told Captain/Owner Ray that I would be back, but I am sure that he has heard that a thousand times.  Well, we made it.  Check out www.lostislandvoyages.com  Thanks for all your help Ray!

We were all prepared to blow off the Abacos, because we were enjoying the Exumas so much.  But, everybody that we discussed that with just gave us that look.  Okay, I guess we will go the Abacos then, but that means that we only have a few days to retrace our steps back down the Exumas.

First we stopped at Allen's Cay and fed the Iguanas and do a little snorkelling.  Just too rough to go out in the ocean and do some real diving.  And the forecast was stacked against us, big east winds were going to keep us off Exuma Sound.

We had no choice but to make the most of a bad situation.  We decided to slide down the bank side and head for Warderick Well's.  There are some great snorkelling sites there and a great chance of getting some Eagle Ray pictures.

Most mooring locations in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park are first come, first served.  But, at Warderick Wells (the park headquarters) you need a reservation.  We managed to get the mooring ball closest to the best snorkelling site in the area.  Smiles all around.  

There is a fair tidal exchange here, that means snorkelling only happens on the slack tides.  Fortunately, we had a slack high and a slack low at convenient times of the day.  During other parts of the day we had time to do things like stalk a 12"-18" juvenile Lemon shark through the shallows.

I did see a couple Eagle Rays, but they weren't up for having their pictures taken.  Conversely, the lobsters seemed fully aware that they had found life in full protection of the marine park.  They walked carelessly in broad daylight and seemed very happy to have their pictures taken.

I may have seen lobsters.  But, up on the surface the girls had their own encounter.  A Caribbean Reef shark needed to come over and see what all the fuss was about.  I am so proud of my girls!!!  Yes, Macara practically drown Kerri in an effort to get closer to her.   But, after the shark was gone, both went back to happily snorkelling.  Neither wanted out of the water. :-)

As much as I would like to be in control of my own destiny, the weatherman tells me when it is time to move.  And when he says get going...  Thirty minutes later, we had the dinghy back on board and were off our mooring ball.  Next stop Highbourne Cay.

Highbourne Cay Marina was our first stop in the Exumas.  It was Super Bowl Sunday then, and Shania Twain sat two tables behind us.   The food was great, we thought we would try to relive it.  Apparently, the word is out. We managed to get a slip, but we couldn't get dinner reservations.  Bummer.

We did manage to hook up with some friends that we had met in Bimini.  They had been back to Florida for a bit and were now on their second Bahamas trip of the winter.  They had been at Highbourne Cay Marina for over a month.  To say that they were enjoying their time there would be an understatement.  Not your stereotypical South Florida sportfish crew, but they do like to fish.  And the fishing in north Exuma Sound has been crazy good lately.  And the conching, it's also good.  So, why would you leave?

But, we were leaving.  Only, they inspired us to get out and catch a couple fish along the way.  What the heck, let's go fish for 10nm or so and then get back on the bank.

How good was it?  We started fishing about 1nm from the marina.  We had our first fish on before Kerri could get our second line in the water.  Then we put out the second line and it caught a fish before Kerri could get the first line back in the water.  Wow!  Eventually, got three lines out.  We are capable of running all six rods, but we were only going to fish for 10nm.  The last time the rods went off, it was all three lines.  Kerri and I fighting fish off both sides of the boat and Macara at the helm.  The whole time a third fish is peeling off line while the rod sat in a rod holder, unattended.  I take a quick break from my fish to gaff Kerri's.  Kerri run's over and grabs my rod and I gaff it.  Kerri is now sitting on the cooler to prevent it from dancing all over the deck.  I begin reeling in all that lost line on the third fish, get it right up beside the boat and proceed to botch my gaff job.  After three failed attempts it finally spits the hook.  What a morning?!?!  All toll, we didn't fish for 45 minutes.  We didn't fish the length of Highbourne Cay.  We also weren't making very good time towards Spanish Wells.  Time to reel those lines in and get going.  Not bad though, we went 4 for 8 and a better gaff man would have landed 2 more.  It would be uncool to blame my 8 year old daughter at the helm, so I will have to wear that one. ;-)

Our run across the bank took us away from the Exumas toward Spanish Wells, located on the north-west tip of Eleuthera.  Described as the commercial fish capital of all the Bahamas, we expected a little more utilitarian look.  This was a cute little town.  All the homes freshly painted in your typical Caribbean colours.  All the yards landscaped with care. Golf carts and bicycles everywhere.  A pleasant surprise for sure.  It is a dry town, we left the first thing the next morning.

We were hoping to fish again on day 2 as we crossed the Atlantic Ocean proper towards the Abacos.  The forecast was for a south wind, but instead it was easterly.  There was also a large ocean swell from the east.  Before long the rocking became uncomfortable.  No fishing today.  Time to put the hammers down and steady this boat down.  Plus, less time on the water will make the crew happier.  Unfortunately, the whole time we got to listen to the charter boats chit chat about this tuna and that wahoo and all the 'annoying' Mahi mahi. 

The Abacos on a timeline.

We gave ourselves about a week in the Abacos.  Hopetown, Marsh Harbour, Great Guana Cay, Treasure Cay, Green Turtle Cay.  We met up with cruising friends, we even had friends fly in from back home.  That was a real treat.

We didn't feel the same passion towards the Abacos.  Fair or not, it didn't make us feel like we did in the Exumas.  We had a lot of fun, we met a lot of nice people.  But, we are missing the Exumas already.

Again, the weatherman made our plans for us.  Hurry along, he said.  A north-east cold front is on its way.  We had a beautiful night at Great Sale Cay.  We snorkelled and found one lonely conch, not enough, so he got spared.  We found a couple lobster, but they are out of season.  I don't recall ever seeing lobster making their own burrows before.  That was neat.  I even changed the zincs on the drive shafts.  Then I brought Macara down on scuba for a final inspection.  She approved.

Mother's Day on the water and still more travelling.  Our plan was to head up on the bank and swim with Atlantic White Spotted dolphins. I have had a chance to do this a couple times while Kerri was home with Macara.  But, today was too windy, too choppy, so we had to abandon that plan.  Once we got off the bank, we thought that we would give fishing a try.  Ten minutes of that was too much as well.  Although ten minutes was enough to catch one Mahi and one Cero.  The Cero went back, the Mahi was dinner.

Check out my Mahi sashimi!!!
So, now we sit in West End, Grand Bahama.  Our last Bahamas destination before heading back to the United States.  There is a really cool shark dive here.  Tiger sharks and possibly hammerheads.  All I need is for this weather to pass through and to find a couple more thrill seekers/shark lovers.  I just can't justify paying for the whole boat.

More GoPro fun from the Exumas.  Macara freediving: