Saturday, February 18, 2012

Northern Exumas

Sampson Cay
24 12.59 N 076 28.45 W

We departed the Ocean Reef YC in Lucaya on Wed 2/8/12 and traveled 60 nm SE towards Great Stirrup Cay, the northern-most island in the Berry Island chain. There was much unsettled weather. Our route was through these squalls. Fortunately, we were able to dodge these rain cells throughout this 1st day and likewise on the following day as we traveled another 60nm to Rose Island (just E of Nassau).
We arrived at Allens Cay Fri. 2/10/12.  We snorkeled at a favorite location and visited the Iguanas again. We only intened to stay at Allens Cay 1 night but  the strong cold front that was predicted to arrive Sunday brought very strong southwesterlies ahead of it making it just too rough to leave the anchorage. So we hunkered down and sat out the front here with strong winds and very rolly conditions for about 36 hours.

Barnacle thinks the new stack pack sail cover was made just for him. He enjoys keeping an eye on things from his perch on the boom and is just so happy to be away from the marina.

When conditions settled on Monday 2/13/12 (Happy Birthday Mike!!) we had a beautiful sail to Shroud Cay which is the northernmost cay in the Exuma Land and Sea Park. Shroud Cay is not one island but actually a group of cays and rocks between which are numerous small creeks and mangroves. We spent the afternoon exploring some of the creeks by kayak. The park has closed all but the northernmost creek to motorized vessels to help preserve the the creeks which are breeding grounds and nurseries for many varieties of fish as well as conch and lobster.

We were treated to a spectacular sunset that evening. Of course we have beautiful sunsets every night but some are just breathtaking as was this one.

We had another nice sail to Bell Island on Tues. However, It looks like we anchored off the runway of the Bell Island International Airport! This seaplane ferries passengers from Nassau to the very exclusive resort located on this island.

We weren't sure what we were going to do on Wed. (it's nice not having plans). So after listening to Chris Parker, the Bahamian weather guru in the morning we decided we would head down to Sampson Cay just north of Staniel Cay but not before exploring nearby Cambridge Cay by dinghy. We "parked" the dinghy and took a walk to the beach on the eastern side of the island.

With Carina safely anchored off the marina docks at Sampson Cay we decided to take our friends, Mo and Polly's advice and check out the burgers and beer at Compass Cay marina. What a treat!!! The "restaurant" is only open for lunch and the menu consists of hamburgers or hot dogs. The burgers were delicious and the view was paradise. Cheeseburgers in Paradise anyone?

SHARKS!!!! These are friendly nurse sharks that "reside" at Compass Cay Marina. The dock was built by the marina staff to accommodate them. The dock is underwater at high tide and the nurse sharks, who are all named, swim up onto the dock to sleep. You have to move them out of the way with your feet as you walk down the dock. That's our dinghy they're swimming under. We left before high tide feeling it was best to not to disturb sleeping sharks.

Captain Mark loves his new dinghy. The hard bottom makes it so much more comfortable and safe - we are able to do much more exploring by dinghy now.
On Friday 2/17/12 we explored an unnamed cay that was a short dinghy ride away from us at Sampson Cay and found this tidal pool in the center of the cay. Apparently there is an opening underwater leading to the ocean as there were small fish in the pool. It was deep enough to do a little snorkeling.
Sampson Cay is south of the Exuma Land and Sea Park boundry so we were able to go conch foraging. On Friday afternoon , while kayaking in the tidal lagoon behind Sampson Cay we found 3 good sized conch from  which Mark expertly cleaned on the transom steps. We feasted on a delicious conch salad with afternoon cocktails and plan to have cracked conch for dinner tonight.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Still in Lucaya, Grand Bahamas

Ocean Reef Yacht Club
Grand Bahamas
26 30.243 N 078 39.718 W
(double click on images to enlarge)

We have been at Ocean Reef Yacht Club for almost a month!! Unheard of for us to stay put for so long but with the multitude of activities and uncooperative easterly winds it's not a bad place to be. As you can see we are taking advantage of all the resort has to offer including free scuba classes. That's Mark in the pool - I opted to stick to snorkeling.

We met two great couples from Connecticut who were vacationing at the resort. We quickly became friends with Donna, Jim, Paula and Ed and felt like we had known them forever. On a relatively calm day we took them on a 10 mile sail along the coast of Grand Bahama to a tiny island about 1/2 mile offshore. Peterson Cay and the surrounding coral reefs are part of the Bahamian National Parks. Here we enjoyed some snorkeling and an impromtu beach picnic.

A group picture of "the crew from Connecticut" after returning to the dock.

The next day Jim went out snorkeling and managed to spear these 3 lobsters...

.... That same day Mark and a few other cruisers went out fishing with Capt. Les who runs a fishing charter from the marina. These are Trigger Fish. Between Jim's lobsters and Mark's fish we had an awesome dinner that night with our Connecticut friends.
We decided to take a walk along the beach on this day but needed to cut it short as we hadn't closed the hatches onboard. Notice those squally looking clouds headed our way. In background, the locals are selling their wares under 'da umbrellas to the tourist  that pass by.

On this day's walk on the beach we didn't cut it short... the weather was perfect.

After learning everything about fishing from Capt. Les, Mark and Bruce (another cruiser) decided to give it a try on their own. They took the dinghy out and did okay as you can see. Notice the kitty waiting patiently for a hand out...there is a small colony of tame feral cats that make Ocean Reef their home. The humane society has spayed and neutered them and released them back onto the property where they live quite happily among the tourists and cruisers. Needless to say they are well fed.

Monday night madness...this past Monday was a pirate theme. AARGH!! As we mentioned before, every Monday the resort has a welcome dinner for the time share guests which the cruisers also attend. Free dinner and drinks...why not? This is Tom who lives at the marina on his boat and serves as a BASRA volunteer. BASRA stands for Bahamas Air Sea Rescue Association and is an all volunteer organization which responds to marine emergencies.

Off to the pool...
for a hilarious session of aquasize. I think we burned more calories laughing than exercising.
We shared a taxi with some other cruising couples down to the Port Lucaya Marketplace one Friday night. In the marketplace square there is live music to dance to followed by a limbo performer who was amazing. Here he's going under the limbo stick carrying this little boy on his thighs. After this, he limbo-ed under the pole supported by only 8" tall Kalik beer bottles. 

Mark tried scuba...I tried tennis. It was a lot of fun and a great workout.
Over the month we've been here Mark has gotten his own workout by compounding and waxing Carina's fiberglass decks and hulls.

Barnacle is the only one of us who's not enjoying his stay at Ocean Reef all too well.  We must keep him on a leash so he does not jump off the boat and hang out with the feral cats...  not to mention bringing back ticks & fleas onto the boat. He is generally content to stay on the helm chair or in the cockpit on his leash checking out the comings and going along the dock, that is until he spots... 
.....One of the little Curly Tail lizards such as this one that teasingly pokes it's head up out of a small hole in the dock's decking right next to our boat. This is too much for Barnacle to tolerate.  
Sinbad has also had some misfortune here at Ocean Reef. We have been letting him roam the decks without a leash since he's not inclined to bolt like Barnacle. One night around dusk while we were playing Mexican Train Dominoes in the cockpit, Sinbad attempted to jump from the boat onto the dock. He missed and fell into the water. We heard the "splash" and Mark jumped in to rescue him. Here he is getting a wash down in the shower post salt water dousing. Since then he has been reluctant to leave the safety of the salon.

We intentionally decided to linger here at ORYC to watch the Superbowl this Sunday. There's no TV signals where we're heading for quite awhile. Besides, persistent easterly winds may force us to hang around here for possibly another week until we get a favorable wind direction for sailing a course to the Berry Islands. Oh well... we can think of worse places to stay.