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.

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