The Snorkeling Dive that Made Narcos Real

Feb 26th: Today we snorkeled the plane that went down here during the days of Norman’s Cay being a drug-running center. Apparently this cay was ideal for its out of the way location, long landing strip and proximity to the US. We don’t know what happened to the pilot of this ill-fated plane, but it missed the runway and crashed in about 6 feet of water many years ago. Since then, the islands have turned to more peaceful pursuits in tourist trade and the tales of Carlos Lehder, the drug lord from decades ago, have faded into the mists of time.

However, Kathleen and Neil had a very enjoyable morning exploring the wreckage, marveling at the sea’s ability to reclaim its territory, seeing many types of coral and several schools of fish making the twin engine their home. Dave and Elaine decided to relax on the beach, as they are still acclimating to life on a moving, rolling home and needed some time on terra firma.

Kathleen snorkeling sunken plane off Norman’s Cay

After diving the wreck, Kathleen and Neil toured the area, which has beautiful beaches, shallow waters, lots of coral beds and apparently a “new” Norman’s Cay Club being constructed. (Neil pointed out that it has been being built for the last 4-5 years, and so far only has part of a roof on one building, but we did see construction vehicles moving stuff around, so progress was being made!). We checked out another set of “coral condos” just off the southern point of the island. Kathleen had a blast swimming among the beautiful tropical fish and amazing variety of coral while Neil relaxed on the dinghy. We boated back to Dave and Elaine’s beach spot, and the four of us went to MacDuff’s restaurant (the only one on the island, we believe) and had a very enjoyable lunch on a relaxing and beautifully appointed veranda. After lunch, we got back in the dinghy, motored to our floating home, and Kathleen enjoyed reading and sunbathing while the other three napped away a couple of hours inside the boat. The weather was perfect, with a constant gentle breeze, 75-80 degree temperature and water that is just cool enough to be refreshing. While taking some pictures, we did remember that it was snowing in Denver today, and again thanked our lucky stars for this time in our lives.

The grounds of MacDuffs Cottages and Restaurant are immaculate
Lunch at MacDuffs

The next day, all four of us dove the wrecked plane, getting to meet up with Dale and Karen Bennett, friends from Vero, and their guests. It was a gorgeous day, and it was fun to be able to share it with family and friends. After the wreck, we snorkeled the Coral Condos from the previous day, being lucky enough to see a fairly large sting ray nestled in the sand. Lots of tropical fish and a wide variety of coral made it a great adventure.

Later that afternoon, while enjoying the late day sun up on the “Lido Deck” – aka our upper deck, Dale and his brother-in-law Sean dinghyed by for a visit. We also met some other sailors near us who were out for a dinghy ride and came by our little party – and we all had a great visit. That’s how this community is – it seems really transient (and it is), but you meet such friendly people almost every day.

The stars that night put on their usual spectacular display. Neil got a green light to hang off the transom to draw in fish after sunset, so we had a lot of entertainment (even if the fish were of the rather small variety, they were very cute).

Dave posing with plane wreck
Dinner on the boat deck at our Norman’s Cay anchorage
Underwater lights to attract fish for night time viewing

Shroud Cay Revisted!

The next day we had a short cruise (like five miles) to Shroud Cay, one of our favorite visits from last Summer. It did not disappoint. We picked up a mooring ball, and after getting settled, sent Elaine and Dave off on the kayak to do some exploring. Neil and Kathleen had some down time during a sun dappled afternoon. We did have a rather large and sudden rain shower, which hit out of nowhere. Dave and Elaine were on a nearby beach, with (luckily) a beach umbrella to huddle under, and Kathleen kinda scurried about the boat closing hatches and doors, only to open them all again as soon as the rain stopped – it may have been the end of February, but it was still in the 80’s and a bit humid in the Exumas…

Smooth seas for our cruise south to Shroud Cay. Dave and Elaine contemplating the comfort of a super yacht …
Dave and Elaine exploring Shroud Cay
Shroud Cay mooring field

We went for a dinghy ride, trying to traverse the Cay through a mangrove channel that we had used last year – but the tide was too low. We still saw some rays and turtles, so it was a nice little ride. We celebrated our new anchorage with cocktails on a nearby beach at sunset – really cool and breath-taking, but was also a bit abbreviated as the tide was coming in and the beach was shrinking significantly. Still… it was a glorious sunset.

Next morning we got out bright and early (OK, a little after 8:00, but it SEEMED early) to take the ride through the mangrove forests to the other side of the Cay. The waters were crystal clear, the turtles swimming in abundance, and enough depth for us to motor to the Atlantic side of cay. We anchored and walked to shore, over a short rise, to an amazing vista of gentle waves, innumberable colors of blue in the sea, and a soft breeze. If it wasn’t for a maddeningly/sad amount of plastic that had washed ashore on this secluded island, it would have been absolutely perfect. We took a walk along the curving shoreline, and then a quick dip before heading back to the dinghy – we wanted to head out with the tide, not get stuck there!

Later that afternoon we saw three fish circling under our boat that Elaine and Kathleen were SURE were sharks – Neil dropped the GoPro into the water at the end of a boat pole and got some great video, after which we all agreed that they were not sharks, but we had no idea what they were – and with little to no WiFi, no way to research it.

Toasting a glorious sunset with a glass of wine
Sunset at Shroud Cay mooring
Walking the isolated beaches on the Atlantic side of Shroud Cay
Remora fish swimming under our boat at Shroud Cay mooring. Photo taken with GoPro attached to boat pole. We first thought the fish were small sharks when viewed from above!

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