June in the Exumas - Normans Cay
We left you as we were about to depart for Normans Cay after an enchanting
visit to Shroud Cay. Yet again, or, still (in a word), there was no wind,
but the journey between most of the Exuma islands is very short, so we
gritted our teeth and fired up the diesel. Norman's entrance is a bit
tricky, but very deep, so in short order we were anchored in virtually the
same spot as we used last year. There were 17 boats there when we were last
here, but this time, it was just us, our cruising buddies and two others.
However, before our stay there was over, we'd have a dozen boats anchored
Surprisingly, this time, there were two usable internet sites available.
Good thing, too, as it turned out that the local pub, MacDuff's, had
discontinued making internet available to its patrons. I'm not sure if they
still provided it for the cottages they rented, but, in any case, it was of
no event to us, as we had very tolerable access during our entire stay,
other than on our departure.
Our first couple of days there were marked by no-wind showers, probably more
times of rain than we'd had the last couple of months. One of them was even
enough water to allow us on-deck fresh water showers, but, in general, the
welcomed rains kept our decks cleaned and our stainless steel rinsed,
seemingly halting our invasive little discoloration spots which have plagued
us when we're doing passages and absorbing the inevitable salt spray. The
rain had a slight disruption in our internet as baggage, as the sites we
were using were satellite-based. We'd learned when we were in Black Point,
last year, and benefitting from Lorraine's Café's WiFi, that satellite
reception suffers badly during precipitation. No big deal; the showers were
short, and, for that matter, we were off the boat for many of them. We
welcomed them not only to rinse off the salt from our diving, but to cool us
down in the windless, hot days.
As before, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Normans Cay, but this time,
doing altogether different stuff. There were promising reefs on the ocean
side from which last year's cruisers had harvested many lobster, so we were
anxious to explore. Unfortunately, during our nearly week-long stay, the
weather and tides conspired against our finding comfortable conditions to
have our hand at spearfishing (I have yet to put a spear in the water, let
alone try to use it for dinner!).
Instead, we did lots more exploration. One day, in search of conch, we
found hundreds of immature conch leading us to an area where, as last year,
just by wandering around in the shallows, we found a half-dozen very large
mature conch. One had the warning signs of blackness around its flare, said
to signify extreme age, and potentially poisonous eating, so we let the
oldster live on. Having learned my lesson with my supposedly safely wedging
them into a 5-gallon bucket in Double Breasted Cay in the Jumentos, from
which 4 of the 6 still escaped overnight, the others I put in my "conch
cage" until we returned home. Our "conch cage" is a box similar in
appearance to a milk crate, but with a latching lid, keeping them fed and
safe from escape while sitting on the bottom on a 25' long tether to our
platform once we had returned home.
However, before that, we continued wandering toward the Atlantic side after
caging our catch, into the shallows. We were privileged to see two lemon
sharks who curiously approached us. Lydia got her mask on and was able to
come face-to-face, a real treat. On another day, in the same area, one
wandered toward our splashing feet, curious. However, at about 10 feet out,
apparently he recognized that we were MUCH bigger than he was, and,
startled, he was gone with a swish of his tail and a splash. We're told
that lemon shark (these were 3-4' long) were good eating, so, on yet another
outing in the same area, we took along a pole with a small flashy lure.
Casting well within reach and view of a couple got no interest, so either
they weren't hungry or the lure didn't interest them...
Coming home on the first day's expedition to the area, we found ourselves in
a slightly rising tide after our long walk in the shallows, pulling the boat
behind us. Our explorations had revealed the tidal channels which were cut
through the shallows, much deeper, and swift-flowing, so we took the channel
back to Flying Pig when we were finished that day. After all that walking in
under-a-foot water, it was fun to try to figure out where the channel was -
usually by the different colored water - and found that we were able to
motor at speed, all the way home, including the nearby plane wreck close to
our boat. Because we'd thoroughly explored it last time, and had such
amazing experiences in various reefs in the Exumas on the way north, this
time we gave the now-ho-hum aircraft a miss with our snorkels :**))
The charts of the area show another anchorage, extremely well protected,
with an entrance noted as "intricate" and visual pilotage rules, only. It
was about a mile on the outside, but our trusty PortaBote was easily up to
the task of dealing with the nonexistent waves, so we headed up for a
look-see on another glorious day in the Bahamas.
Sure enough, the entry was intricate - but of no issue to us, with our
inches-deep draft. However, as we were wandering the beach side, around the
corner roars a landing craft (drop-down front loading gate) with two huge
outboards at full speed. We watched the course they took for future
reference. The entry area was full of sand bars and the area, while densely
populated with small conch, yielded only another oldie, which we again set
free for another many years' life.
Working our way into the anchorage, we discovered that, once in, it
broadened out into a deep, totally protected, wide, anchorage. At the
northeast end, a huge construction project was under way, and we chatted up
one of the contractors. The landing craft which had zoomed past us was the
means by which they received all their construction material. Later that
day, after we'd paid our respects to Stephan, the owner, and had enjoyed one
of their excellent burgers and fries, the locals arrived for the "Happy
Hour" at MacDuff's. We'd not actually known of the event, but Jason, the
solar and electrical contractor we'd met in the north anchorage had told us
of it. We got much more detail of the construction project in the course of
our extended conversation that evening...
I'll save you the details, other than to say that he lives on his catamaran
with very similar electrical setups to ours. On the other hand, this
enormous estate which was a-building already had over 100 KW of solar panels
in and operational, supplemented by two 100KW diesel generators, in the
event of totally unforeseen conditions making solar generation impossible.
Without all the technical discussion, it suffices to say that the system is
engineered to cope with the least historical amount of solar energy, but,
belt and suspenders and all that, had the diesel as well. Of course,
long-time readers of my log know of our fuel polishing system, keeping the
fuel pristine. Theirs is no different, other than in scale, with their
35,000 gallon tankage available to them!
In the course of our conversations, however, we learned that other 7' draft
vessels have made it in and out of there, albeit on lunar high tides.
Unfortunately, that's a maximum of once a month, so once in there, we'd be
stuck for a minimum of a month. That said, and also with the downside that
hurricanes don't give you that much warning, making entry very problematic
should the need arise at a time other than at lunar high tide, this would be
an ideal hurricane hole. On the way out of the anchorage, we used our
hand-held depth sounder at mid-tide, and learned that it might, indeed, be
do-able, but only likely with a dinghy sounding out the way. "Intricate"
doesn't begin to describe the needed path in, not to mention that the first
scary part is rocks not 25' apart at the entrance!
After nearly a week there, and, coincidentally, on a Sunday when the
internet transmissions disappeared despite the station still booming at us,
we took our leave of Norman's Cay in a light breeze. Finally, enough wind
to sail, we had the anchor up on June 13th, another brilliant day. It was
no mad dash, but we made our way up to Highborne Cay, another highly
recommended stop. As always, we hopefully put out our fishing lines, but
the only indication of interest was apparently something with a big mouth
and teeth, as, once again, we contributed hardware to Davy Jones. Whatever
it was swallowed the 4" cedar plug and 2" hook whole, cutting through the
150# test leader above the lure, leaving me with only the cut end. The fact
that it happened without even tripping our tell-tale alarm, a hooked device
which lets the line loose from it under a quick tug, suggests it was
something moving very fast, and biting VERY hard!
In any event, the sail up was uneventful, other than we wished we'd had more
wind. We anchored off the southern end of the west side, convenient to the
store and marina, staying for several days. This area is literally
surrounded with reefs, too many to explore in the time we spent here, but
not so much that we didn't give it our best in 4 days!
As Highborne Cay has so much to tell about it, I'll leave you here, now,
Until next time, Stay Tuned!
Morgan 461 #2
SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
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"You are never given a wish without also being given the power to
make it come true. You may have to work for it however."
"There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in
its hand. You seek problems because you need their gifts."
(Richard Bach, in Illusions - The Reluctant Messiah)