Monday, May 17, 2010

Exuma Land & Sea Park

On the 9th we decided to head down to Shroud Cay which is the first big Cay in the Land and Sea Park. The Land and Sea Park is a marine protected area where no fishing, spearing, and shelling are observed. Basically nothing alive or dead can be removed. It’s a 176 square mile area and covers 15 large islands and a lot of smaller ones which means the guys will have to put their hunt and gather mode away for a while. We dropped anchor in about 9 feet of water so clear it looked like we stopped in a swimming pool. No problem seeing the anchor here…..
Looks like a swimming pool
Wow, check out this water, so clear you can see the anchor chain

We piled in the dinghies and headed to the north end of the island to Sanctuary Creek which is a winding shallow creek that eventually dumps you out to Driftwood Beach. We all keep saying “How can this get any prettier” but somehow it does. What met us at the end of the creek was an incredible sight with water yet again so beautiful it it’s hard to describe.

The end of the channel we followed

On the other side of the channel with dinghies beached

We made our way up the hillside to Camp Driftwood which once was used by drug agents in the 80’s to spy on aircraft flying from Norman’s Cay. Today it is only a marker showing the spot but it affords an incredible view of the eastern shore and the creek.
Beautiful view of the beach below

Another view from the top of Camp Driftwood

We made our way back through the creek and stopped along all the coral heads to snorkel on the way back to the boats seeing lots of queen angel fish, queen triggerfish, snapper, grouper, lobster and blue tangs. We did see a nice size nurse shark asleep under a coral head and Dirk had fun corralling a barracuda my direction and landing me back in the dinghy. I have never heard of a barracuda attacking a person but I don’t want to be the first either. We got back to the boat cleaned up, ate and retired early to bed.
On the 10th we pulled anchor shortly after breakfast and headed to Warderick Wells Cay which is the headquarters for the Exuma Land & Sea Park. We decided this would be a good place to be with the winds that were due to hit us the following day as we would be on a mooring ball. It is a beautiful area with a channel winding its way through sandbanks that are dry during low tide. In fact during low tide we can jump off the back of the boat and in a couple of strokes be on shore. There are several trails to hike that wind around the island taking you to blow holes, beaches and the famous Boo Boo Hill. We had been looking on our travels all along for that perfect piece of driftwood that we could put the boat name on and leave on the hill, finally finding one at Normans Cay.
This way to Boo Boo Hill

Here is the sign I made for Boo Boo Hill

We made the hike up the hill and what a spectacular view awaited us. Looking back over Exuma Sound the water was angry with white caps and waves as the winds were blowing a good 18 to 20 knots. The view of the park interior was beautiful and we took this time for photo opps of the boat.

We looked through the pile of driftwood looking for familiar boat names and spotted several that we have met along the way then ended up finding a nice place to nestle ours to leave so we might be granted fair weather and safe travel.

Here, I found the perfect spot Dirk making sure the sign is good

We then traveled down the trail to the blow holes and noted the tide was still too low for there to be any action so we would have to return as the tide was higher. After the hike Dirk & I decided to go for a snorkel at a couple coral heads inside the mooring field called The Rangers Garden. Unfortunately with the winds being so strong for several days and the current being very strong the clarity of the water wasn’t that great and I soon found myself tiring from fighting the current so we headed back to the dinghy and back to the boat. We ended up jumping off the back of the boat, walking the sand bar and playing in the sand like two children at the beach for the first time. Soon the tide was coming in and the sand bar began getting smaller so we swam back to the boat, cleaned up, ate, and called it an evening.
This is us in relation to the sand bar behind us

And one more

The following day we decided to give the Rangers Garden snorkel another try during slack tide. This time it was a lot easier and seemed to be a bit clearer. I bet on a calm day this would be a beautiful little reef to see as there were several huge lobsters just hanging out in plain view. Guess they know that it’s a no take zone and have no fear of humans eyeing them. There was also a huge black grouper hanging out big enough that if he made any sudden moves I would have walked on water to get away. There were also several very large gray angel fish, tangs, and snapper. We got cleaned up and hiked back up to the blow holes where this time we got to experience the blast of warm sea air that met us as you look down into the hole. Better hold on to your hat for that one. Today is the 14th and we have been here now for four days waiting on the winds to die a bit so we can head further south. We were suppose to take off today but decided to wait one more day due to the winds being around 23 knots gusting to 28. Not exactly the best winds to sail in especially when they are coming out of the direction in which we want to travel. Also neither s/v Sovereign Swan nor us got much sleep last night due to the major rocking and rolling we were doing all night. . It was a lazy day on board doing minor chores, reading, playing on the computer and in the evening we had sun downers in the cockpit as we watched about 4 good sized Black Tip or sand sharks, can’t be sure but Dirk feels they were black tips hanging out under our boat. Dirk stood on the swim platform with the looky bucket which is basically a 5 gallon bucket with the bottom cut out and replaced with plexi glass. Most cruisers we know own one and they are great for checking the anchor or looking at reefs before diving in. Anyway Dirk would slap the water with the bucket and they would swim by to take a look see as we would be taking a look see at them. We were both trying to look and I was trying to take photos through the bucket but could never get a good shot. Dirk finally went below and returned with the underwater video camera, hung over the back and videoed them. Wonder why they picked our boat, perhaps our location and the tidal currents? Hummm ever since we have been here we have been having nurse sharks, eagle rays, barracuda, and now these guys hanging out, and to think we were swimming off the back. Yikes…. Perhaps tomorrow will be better and we can make it down to Big Majors Spot which is right next to Staniel Cay. We have to make it there in a couple days as I am due to fly out of Staniel for a wedding next week and still need to deal with some laundry, groceries, and Flamingo Air before I go.

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