Journal Entries from 2/19/2017 to 2/22/2017
Monday, February 20, 2017
I left Bimini Sunday morning on a rising tide and a moderate wind headed for New Providence island. I motored north a few miles to North Rock then sailed off and on sixty miles across the Great Bahama Bank to the Northwest Channel. A frontal system hit just before dark with a bit of wind and a lot of rain. It looked a lot worse than it turned out. I reached the NW Channel at ten then sailed under a star filled sky forty miles over the deep dark waters of the Tongue of The Ocean. Luminescence in the sea water sparkled in Walkabout’s wake.
I thought that by passing New Providence on it’s south side I could stop for a rest Monday morning in West Bay. As it turned out my progress was so good I just kept going another forty miles to Norman’s Cay in the Exumas reaching it late in the afternoon. I spent the night anchored about three hundred yards off the shore, next to the airstrip. At sunset a small plane landed and then took off. The island was notorious for drug trafficking back in the seventies but has been abandoned for years. New development activity can be seen: The airplane for one, and a large dredging operation nearby. So maybe things are looking up for Norman’s Cay.
The weather report for Wednesday night and Thursday is not so good, a depression will bring high winds and storms into the Exumas and I have to find a secure place to stay until it blows over. My first choice is the mooring field at Warderick Wells where my wife and I stayed twice before, once in a forty knot blow that lasted three days. The moorings are put out by the government, are very strong and can be counted on. So that’s the plan.
The Exuma island chain is about one hundred miles long top to bottom and consists of small islands formed from coral reefs that were lifted above sea level millennia ago. The little islands have very poor soil, if any, and are generally destitute of water except for the largest ones like Great Exuma.
Most agriculture is performed as “pot-hole” farming, named after the odd characteristic of the ancient coral rock to have various sized perforations, called pot holes, in it that can be filled with compost mixed with sand and then planted with crops like tomatoes or cabbage. A time honored way that Bahamians provide for themselves.
Warderick Wells, an island near the middle of the chain is the center for the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, a national park which protects the natural marine environment and allows visitors to experience an undeveloped, wild island group. No anchoring, fishing, or camping is allowed in the park, just boats on moorings. You can land your dinghy on a beach, hike on the trails, snorkel and swim to your heart’s content; just don’t take anything, alive or not, with you when you leave. The water around the islands is the most beautiful blue you’ve ever seen, crystal clear over white coral sand. Sea turtles including the Loggerhead can be seen and sometimes bigger things show up, like sharks and barracuda. I intend to get some underwater time.
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
On the way out of the Norman’s Cay anchorage this morning I passed another Vermont boat, the crew waved but I don’t know who they are. Their sailboat had a turtle painted on the bow. Know them?
I got lucky, again. Sailing down here this morning in a stiff easterly breeze I was about ten miles out from the ranger station on Warderick Wells listening to VHF channel nine and heard boats calling for mooring reservations. This time of the year and with a weather front moving in I had my doubts of getting a mooring but gave it a try and called the attendant. The distance was too far so I waited a while and when I was seven miles away called again. She put me on hold and then returned saying that I should call back in an hour. At eleven I did and got assigned a ball in the channel, the most protected spot. I’ll stay until Friday.
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
I think Warderick Wells is one of the more spectacular places I’ve traveled to, on a boat or otherwise. Actually, this island is only part of a much larger park, The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, a marine sanctuary encompassing over a hundred and seventy square miles of the middle Exumas, covering fifteen islands and seabed out to four miles on either side. No fishing is allowed and visitors are exhorted to refrain from taking souvenirs like shells or stones, just pictures. But you can swim, snorkel or dive to your hearts content in the turquoise water and see live coral and plenty of large and small fish. Me, I like to hike around the island on the trails that wind through the palm forest up and down the prehistoric sand dunes that make up the hills. The view from those hilltops is fantastic and worth whatever it took to get here.
The expected blow is beginning as I type with gusts in the high twenties so far, later tonight stronger wind and some squalls are predicted. Should be interesting. I’m incredibly fortunate to have gotten a mooring, especially in this protected channel. The wind is supposed to go southwest tomorrow and that is the direction which builds short steep waves in the main mooring field. But not in here, there is a shallow sand bar just a few feet away and the waves can’t get over it. An hour ago a confused sailor went aground on it and a quickly assembled group of dinghies, mine too, pushed the boat off. Poor fellow, instead of looking at the water he was staring into his handheld device and couldn’t seem to understand the difference. Anyway, he gave up on the channel and went off somewhere to anchor. (Note. This morning he is OK but got sand in the engine)