June in the Exumas - Highborne to Allens Cays - SailNet Community

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Old 06-18-2010
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June in the Exumas - Highborne to Allens Cays

June in the Exumas - Highborne to Allens Cays

We left you after we'd thrown out the hook in Highborne Cay, eagerly
anticipating all we'd heard about what an amazing stop this was on the
chain.

Our first foray was to the reefs just to the east of Oyster Cay. By this
time, I'd resorted to putting the camera and housing into the refrigerator,
where, of course, the air was much drier. It proved to be partly
successful, in that the lens portion of the housing didn't fog up until much
later. Unfortunately, the batteries died before it became an issue, so I
didn't get as many of the stunning shots as I'd have liked.

However, learning from my mistakes, while the refrigerator turned out to be
a good idea, by the time I'd gotten the camera into the housing, the very
high humidity here had allowed some condensation on the case' inside, making
seeing the small screen impossible. Thus, I was shooting by pointing, not by
view. At that, even in the best of conditions, the screen is difficult to
see, and with my now-assisted vision, even more so if the screen area were
clear.

Thinking that problem through, I hit upon having the camera in such a
position as to allow the colder, drier, air to reach the lens portion of the
housing, but already inside it. Snatching the refrigerator door open and
squeezing the housing closed before even getting it out allowed me to
defeat - at least for the length of times I was underwater - that problem
for the next couple of days. Good thing, too, because the next expedition
was to the "Octopus' Garden" - whimsically named, I presume, as none of the
books and guides we have of the area make any mention of seeing any there!

However, I did get some stunning photos of the elusive Queen Triggerfish, a
droll looking item with eyelids it blinked at me, and an open mouth that
seemed to be laughing at me as I chased it over much of the garden, trying
for my photos! We ended that day a bit north of that garden in another
amazing coral area where Lydia saw a huge shark headed somewhere else,
ignoring her, and several large Yellowtailed Snappers. Unfortunately, as
the water was certainly warm enough to allow us to stay in for hours if we'd
wished, the current by that time was running strongly, and staying in place
was becoming difficult. We reluctantly returned to our dinghy and headed
back home.

Off the point of Highborne Cay's westernmost tip is a massive reef,
stretching for more than a mile westward. Here, too, we found amazing and
entertaining things to look at and photograph. The variety of underwater
flora and fauna seem endless, and we're continually discovering another fish
we'd not seen before, as well as coral formations new to us. This reef was
very shallow, allowing those not so adventurous as I, who prefer to be
up-close and personal with my underwater life, to see everything clearly.
Marked by two rocks awash at high tide, and well exposed at low, it's easy
to find, and a favorite among the dive boats in the area.

Another foray included a circumnavigation of the island, in hopes of seeing
some of the only-recently-discovered, presumed extinct, reefs off the
eastern shore, and recommended in the guides as best viewed from the beach.
We were at low tide, so didn't go in far enough to see _them_, for fear of
scraping, but we were absolutely gobstruck by the profusion of huge reefs a
little further out.

These reefs are in much deeper water, precluding our anchoring the dinghy
(not long enough line) there in the many sand areas around them, much to our
(well, mine, anyway - Lydia's not comfortable with diving) dismay. These
rise a dozen or more feet off the ocean floor, sort of like a mushroom cloud
in that their bases are very undercut as compared to their surface. As has
been the case for so much of our time, there was no wind, so doing "donuts"
over them allowed good viewing, which only whetted my appetite for diving
them. Alas, it was not to be, but it certainly is a great destination for a
larger dinghy with 50 or more feet of scope on a chained-anchor line, as
there are literally thousands to choose from.

After our several days in Highborne Cay which ended with a quickie trip to
the gas dock (dinghy fuel) and store (extraordinarily expensive eggs and
bread), we again set out northward. June 17th saw us sail off our anchor in
very light winds at 10AM, making for Allens Cay. We'd picked up a local
snorkeling map, done by a couple we met in Normans Cay, similar to the ones
handed out in the park (they did those, too), so knew where the places to go
underwater exploring were, including waypoints. As we'd done the iguana bit
last year, but had not done any diving then, we would give the critters a
pass this time.

Our trip was nearly ideal for a genoa-only sail, as we were in no particular
hurry. The light breeze of 4-5 knots drifted our bow around to our eventual
attitude of 150* apparent wind on the port side, where we rolled out the
genoa. We headed 276*T to go around the mile-long reefs, and with the sail
up, making a thrilling 1.9-2.4 knots SOG, we saw a gentle 2-3 knots of
apparent wind. Next to no waves, other than the frequent powerboats
passing, our tranquil time passed quickly.

The remainder of the trip started at 11:10 as we turned for 000*T. This
amounted to a slightly broad reach of 110 apparent wind - which was dying! -
of only 3-4 knots. However, apparently we had some tidal lift, as we were
charging along at 2.2-3.1 knots SOG. With the slight breeze abeam, the
brilliant sun was more bearable, as we could again hide under the bimini's
shade! Making haste slowly, we still were enjoying the ride, having
anticipated the time needed to make the slack tide for our first dive :**))

Sure enough, by 11:40, we turned upwind to 051*T, which made for a close,
60* apparent wind, reach. Of course, turning upwind created more apparent
wind forward, but, unfortunately, the wind was not only dying, it was
backing. We crept along at 1.7 knots in 4 knots of apparent wind which
eventually reached 30*, making for an extremely close reach - a beat,
actually, but "beating" brings to mind much more severe conditions than we
were seeing, and we still made our way forward under genoa alone.

In retrospect, given how long it actually took, I should have taken the time
to put up the main before sailing off the anchor. It would have added a
half or more knot, certainly. Sheer laziness on my part, as rolling out the
genoa, and then rerolling it at the end is simpler than our raising (very
simple) and then lowering/flaking/stowing/covering (less so, but still, not
onerous in any way) the main. In the end, it really didn't make any
difference, as we reached our anchorage between Allens and Leaf Cay. We had
the anchor down in about 10' of water by 12:30, and immediately jumped in
the dinghy for our first trip.

There's a section of reef just outside Leaf Cay's little islands north of
its tip, marked with a bouy in the hand-drawn guide to the area.
Unfortunately, that bouy, which we did see in our time there, has gone into
disuse, and rests about 2' off the ocean floor, its flotation having become
saturated over the years. Made me wish I'd not put that spare buoy we had
onto the stick mentioned in a prior log, as I could well have renewed it
while we were there, or on a return trip the next day.

In any event, anchoring there was challenging, as it was all rock. I
eventually dove to a rock without any coral around it, wedging the tip of
our Danforth-style dinghy anchor under the lip. Getting it out, later,
required motoring forward on it, allowing the ring to slide on the shank,
thus pulling it backwards from the lip. This area varies in depth between
8-20 feet, with most of the coral in about 15' of water but the tops of
which are sometimes as close as a couple of feet from the surface. As I
grabbed the camera, hastily put into the refrigerator and more-so retrieved,
I noted that our silicon gel pack had fouled on the silicone ring around the
view screen. I wasn't willing to risk the possibility that it would distort
the frame enough to allow water in, and opening the case would destroy the
"dry" conditions I'd worked to achieve, so I reluctantly left it in the
dinghy.

OY! I sure hope there is a repeat performance today (Friday morning, as I
type), because we saw a large ray, resting on the bottom, and a 6' nurse
shark, same way, not far from the ray. The ray was right in the area of the
dead mooring ball, in about 15' of water. I dove to right above him, as he
eyeballed me closely. However, he wasn't alarmed, merely watching, because
he didn't flex a muscle other than his eyes. Ditto the nurse shark, but,
later, as we swam over him, we did see a slight movement of the tail :**))

We saw yet another of our first-sightings of a new tropical fish. I really
like the 15-20' depth, because, with my weights which give me a very slight
positive buoyancy on the surface, I can get to the depth where my lungs have
compressed to the degree that I'm negatively buoyant, allowing me to sit/lie
on the bottom without having to exert myself to stay down while I ogle.
That one, and several other very notable sets of fish groups were enjoyed
bittersweetly, as I'd sure have liked to have the camera!

Of course, our 90-or-so degree water makes staying in for an extended period
of time merely one of endurance, rather than fear of getting chilled, so we
reluctantly left that area as the tidal flow started making it more work
than pleasure. As it was, we kicked our way into the current for one last
drift over the area as we were swept toward our dinghy anchorage. Thrilled
with the experience, we happily clambered in, and went exploring some more.
However, before I got in, while Lydia soaked up the sun, I took the scrub
brush to the little bits of grass which had accumulated on our PortaBote's
bottom.

In the end, that 5-minute exercise had amazing results, as, I'd noted
recently that our outboard didn't seem to be developing full revs, and we
didn't seem to be going as fast as I'd recalled our doing before. Both
problems were cured with that short scrubbing, and we zoomed north to look
at another area marked on the hand-drawn chart.

This one was an area of high current, by this time, so it will have to be a
slack-tide exploration on Friday, after which we'll revisit the last one...
That area needing slack tide is very interesting as there are two channels
around the island it's right against. So, the current in the middle is
basically slack, while the sides flow in opposite directions, either away or
toward the center depending on which way the tide's moving.

This dive provided yet another first, a great example of a Trumpetfish.
Many other opportunities were recognized, but nothing we'd not seen before.
Perhaps due to the nature of the currents, this area was replete with fan
corals, some of them with brilliant purple veins and green and blue fans,
fronted by tubular yellow corals. Other tube corals looked like pottery,
with the potter's ridges. As the tide was starting to run, after about an
hour there, we moved on to the first location we visited yesterday. Being
in front of a small rock, and not near the tidal races seen easily in the
satellite photos of the area, it was more suited for tide-on-the-move
diving.

Unfortunately for us, we saw neither the nurse shark or the ray we'd hoped
to revisit, but one of my shots, from the bottom looking up, is absolutely
glorious, with swarms of small Blue Chromis, Blue Tang, and Bluehead
overhead, accompanied by a Trumpetfish, all framed by the water's surface
seen from below. I've decided I'll use that for my desktop, rather than the
current Microsoft-provided "Azul" :**)) Many other unique coral formations
were also candidates for my successfully-de-misted lens, and the brilliant
sunlight combined with relatively undisturbed water made for great
sightseeing.

As the current was finally picking up, again, after about an hour or so in
the water, aided by the 90 or so degrees' surface temperature, we started
our swim back to the dinghy, still sightseeing. Somehow, a very small fish
decided that our undersides were very attractive, and accompanied first
Lydia, and me, nearly the entire way. It severely startled her when she
noticed it swimming in front of her mask at one point, and Lydia tells me it
particularly likes blue, apparently, as it stuck close to my bathing suit
for most of the way when I was the favored site, other than one run in front
of my mask to let me know he was there :**))

We ended our time in the water by visiting the ruins on Leaf Cay, a
modern-looking concrete structure on which the curvedshaped roof had caved
in. Several of the indigenous, very endangered, iguanas came to pay us a
visit as we walked back to the beach where we'd pulled up the dinghy, hoping
for a handout. The local tour operators routinely deposit 40-50 gawkers at
a time on this beach, so they know to come running when they hear a boat
approaching. These, too, were marked, but only with dots on their side
other than the single numbered example we saw. We took a pass on going down
to Little Allens Cay, where there are many more, unmarked when we saw them
last year, and headed back to our home.

By now, we'd circumnavigated the Allens Cay/Leaf Cay area, and, at anchor
off Allens, are blessed with a breeze (finally!) and much cooler
temperatures than we observed where we'd first thrown out the hook. We'll
finish our day with a movie and a scrumptious pasta dinner, covered by
Lydia's special sauce, and hit the hay relatively early. Saturday, we'll be
off to Marsh Harbour, which "voyage" (about 24 hours doesn't really qualify
for us as a voyage, any more) will come in the next log.

This time, I'm expecting, following the embarrassment of not doing it before
leaving Highborne, to turn on the SPOT for those who care to follow us at
tinyurl.com/flyingpigspot. If you click the "hybrid" button, and then place
the "hand" where you'd like to look closer, double click where ever you'd
like it to center, and it will automatically zoom. You'll be able to see
the areas of tidal flow I've been talking about if you start with the first
marker in the Allens Cay area, and continue to zoom. The "hand" will also
allow you to move the page around so you can see something which isn't
currently on the screen at whatever zoom level you choose.

Finally, Lydia uses PicasaWeb as her archive for photos of our adventures.
Many of you wrote to thank me for links of pix of the last log, so, I'll add
the ones she's just posted here. However, she asked me to beg forgiveness
in that she has many more pictures than might have been the case if she had
more time to sort. Clicking any of these links will open a page with a
slider at the top right which will allow you to blow all of them up to suit
your browsing, and double-clicking any will give you a single enlarged
photo.

Here's the links:
Picasa Web Albums - Lydia - Allens Cay
Picasa Web Albums - Lydia - Highbourne Cay
Picasa Web Albums - Lydia - Normans Cay
Picasa Web Albums - Lydia - Shroud Cay
Picasa Web Albums - Lydia - Rocky Dundas ...
Picasa Web Albums - Lydia - Pipe Creek
Picasa Web Albums - Lydia - Sampson Cay_2
Picasa Web Albums - Lydia - Staniel Cay
Picasa Web Albums - Lydia - Thunderball G...
Picasa Web Albums - Lydia - South Staniel...
Picasa Web Albums - Lydia - Bitter Guana Cay
Picasa Web Albums - Lydia - Big Galliot a...

So, I'll leave you here for now. Until next time, Stay Tuned!

L8R

Skip, thrilled to be where I am and doing what we're doing


Morgan 461 #2
SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
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(and)
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