The Exuma’s

Hi everyone,

We stayed in Nassau until after New Years so that we could experience another Junkanoo. New Year’s Eve was quiet – we went to bed by 8:30 but were awakened by the fireworks at midnight. Then we arose again at 4 AM and headed in to the dock just before dawn. The parade was still going strong and we stayed and enjoyed all of the colourful costumes and music until after 9 AM. We had been invited to dinner by friends and spent the rest of the day chatting and drinking and eating. Not a lot different from home, just a different locale.

The first few days of the year were spent stocking the boat with fresh vegetables and other perishables, doing laundry, filling water tanks and generally getting ready to head out to the islands. Murray’s ankle was bothering him again, so I kept it wrapped and tried to keep him from walking too far. You may remember that he wrenched it again during the catamaran rescue. We also watched some of the local racing fleet in action. Their boats are narrow and have a huge sail plan. The crew balances the boat by moving out onto planks that are wedged into the cockpit. The more wind, the more crew out on the plank. And tacking is quite a trick! But the competition is fierce, with the usual shouting. On the beach, crowds watch with interest and much cheering. They sell beer and conch fritters from stands set up by enterprising individuals. But, there is no bathrooms on the beach – at least none that we found. So, you have to watch the beer consumption.

On Jan 6th, with at least 15 knots of wind, we upped anchor and headed for Allen’s Cay ( pronounced key ) in the Exuma’s. The passage was tricky as we had to pass between two areas – the Yellow and White Banks. Due to the overcast day, we decided not to try to pass over the banks as we didn’t know if we could see the coral heads clearly. But, we needn’t have worried – they were quite visible. They look like a big black spot on the water and you must go around them as it is possible they are only just below the surface.

We arrived in Allen’s just before dusk and we greeted by friends on Silent Running. Doug showed us the best spot to anchor and told us that we would need both anchors due to the strong current through the area. The wind started to pick up and it blew hard for the next two days. But our anchors held and we slept well. Eventually, the winds died and we could ” go out and play”. We snorkeled the reefs, fished, swam and explored the three islands. Allen’s Cay is home to the rock iguanas. They are used to being fed and have become somewhat aggressive. They may nibble on your ankle as their eyesight is poor. We fed them some cabbage leaves but I threw the leaves! I am not brave enough to try feeding them from my hand.

Doug and Rose showed us the sights above and below water and gave us a couple of lobster in return for some sail repair tape that Murray had picked up for them. We enjoyed a lovely dinner of two lobster tails! And then the wind blew hard again and we were confined aboard again.

On Jan 13th, we upped anchor and moved on to Norman’s Cay. We anchored against the western shore and in just a few minutes Doug had caught a lobster, a fish and a conch. He gave Murray a conch cleaning lesson and gave him some scraps for bait. Murray went out in the dinghy and trolled over the coral heads for a while. He returned with two fish for our dinner – a grunt and a snapper.

The next day, Silent Running moved on to Staniel Cay and we headed inside the south anchorage at Norman’s to explore this island. Just Ducky, with Carol & Joe aboard, were still with us. The island had been taken over by drug smugglers in the ’80’s and had been a dangerous spot to visit. In the anchorage is the wreck of an airplane that crashed in the water. It is now the home to many fish. Many friends from Nassau were anchored here and cocktail parties sprouted like weeds. The days were spent swimming, snorkeling, hunting for conch and fish. It’s a tough life!

MarNel IV, with Pete and Lani aboard, showed up just in time to teach us all about cleaning and cooking conch. Although I certainly did not eat any after last years allergic reactions. They continued the snorkeling and diving lessons begun by Silent Running.

Jan 18th, we sailed to Wardwick Wells in Exuma Park. And I do mean we sailed. The engine was off. Here we picked up a mooring and again started a new round of cocktail parties. There were trails to tramp and beaches to explore. But, no fishing allowed in the park. Or even shelling. Look, but don’t take. We climbed to the top of Boo-Boo Hill were people place momentos of broken gear, parts and pieces and signs with boat names. Murray made a lovely one for Windswept on a piece of flotsam that was washed ashore. We tied it in place on the pile. It was fun to see the names of many friends. Lo n Slo was still in place from last year and we also found Silent Running. snorkeling is next on the agenda and then we will move out and anchor offshore as the moorings are $15/day.

Tomorrow, we will travel 15 to 20 miles to Staniel Cay where I hope to send e-mail and get a few basic supplies. There is also the Thunderball Cave to dive there. The fish will eat out of your hand, supposedly. I am not sure that I will feed them – we will wait and see.

Sorry to be out of touch for so long but there are no phones on the islands that we have visited. When we leave Staniel, the plan is to spend a couple of weeks in Pipe Creek and then on to George Town, eventually.

Don’t worry about us – we are fine and healthy and enjoying these gorgeous sunny days. We will connect when we can.

Love to all, Heather

PS We heard recently that our friends on Vertigo I, Blue Star and Bear Paws all made it across the gulf stream with the last window and are in Nassau. Hail, hail the gang’s all here!! The rest of the Port Stanley boats are only 5 miles away from us now. Big reunions coming up. Now if Tundra can only catch up! They are also in Nassau.

Heather & Murray Rand
aboard Windswept IV
Ham Radio VE3 ZUA