Another short cruise on March 2nd took us to our favorite spot (so far) in the Bahamas. We picked up a mooring ball in the Emerald Rock field, anticipating bigger winds later this week – strategically locating our boat near shore and “hills” that would hopefully buffer the winds that were anticipated from the East in a few days. We took the dinghy to the ranger station to pay our mooring fees and to hike Boo-Boo Hill, the blow holes, and environs. The Ranger was also kind enough (and patient enough) to point out that our mystery “shark-fish” were remora – something Kathleen was SURE were waaayyy smaller – until he very kindly and patiently brought up pictures – of exactly what we had seen under the boat. We were glad for the lesson, and ventured out to hike.
The three mile round trip was fun, with breezes and a lot of sunshine. We encountered other boaters on the trail, which is always fun, to hear about their travels and swap stories and weather updates. Most of the hike was either over very pointy limestone or sand, so we figure we got our workouts in for the day!
Coming back to the boat, we had a nice dip off the swim step, cleaned up and settled in for another spectacular sunset and dinner on the deck. There are worse ways to welcome in the beginning of March.
On the 3rd, we dropped Dave and Elaine at the ranger station so they could do some more land exploring, and Neil and Kathleen went over to the coral garden to try snorkeling. This particular morning we had no luck as the current was really strong. After struggling back into the dinghy, we took a cruise around the mooring field, checking out various boats, and then anchored off of a small beach near the inlet for Warderick Wells Cay. We snorkeled for a bit, again feeling some strong current, explored the tide pools on the beach, and headed back to the Garden to try snorkeling again, hoping that the changing current would allow us an easier time. Kathleen got in first, and had moderately more success, noticing that along with fins, if she swam Freestyle, she made progress – she also probably made noise like a fish in distress, because shortly after swimming, she noticed a 6 foot long black tip reef shark swimming nearby. She immediately went to just calmly hanging out and when the shark chose a direction, she chose the opposite one.
Neil and Kathleen worked very hard to see a small area, but it was beautiful as usual, ending with seeing four beautiful rays swimming/flying through the waters as they headed to the dinghy. They then went to the other end of the island, discovering Pirate’s Lair, another amazing protected cove with pristine beaches. Although the water looked like the most inviting swimming pool ever, the current there was also too strong to swim. They did, however see more rays, however, which was simply icing on the cake of a perfect day.
After cruising back to pick up Dave and Elaine after their excursion (they also saw a lot of sea life, a ray and a nurse shark and lots of fish!), we all went back to the boat for some more swimming and evening relaxing.
March 4th was the last good weather for several days, so we made the most of it. We dinghyed over to Beryl’s Beach, one of the many gorgeous beaches to choose from. We hiked to see colonial ruins, including a stone wall and some very rudimentary “buildings” on the top of a hill. It definitely clarified the incredible difficulties of the earliest settlers, as this “plantation” settlement was listed as failed – with no further discussion of what that meant – but without much potable water, arable land or even easily traversed terrain, it would seem that the failure was probably quick and not pleasant.
We walked to another area designated “Slaves’ Dip” which was on the exposed side of the island, a much more turbulent area with very little sand and a whole lot of limestone. It seemed safe to deduce that either the name was ironic and used as a punishment, or slaves in the day did not dip very often…
We then hung out on the cove side beach, swimming, sunning and enjoing a very brave local lizard who bonded with Kathleen, even climbing on her. She was thrilled, Neil was less so. We got back in the dinghy and cruised over to show Dave and Elaine Pirate’s Lair, which, even with higher winds and choppier water, was still breath-taking.
After a lunch and naps for at least three folks on the boat, we went out to snorkel the Malabar Cays, just behind our boat. Neil and Kathleen saw some great fish, including several fluorescent colored ones, Butterfly fish, Tangs, a grouper, two live spiny lobsters, and tons of coral. The craziest sighting however, was an incredibly huge lobster shell – two crustaceans had apparently battled to the death – but the larger one, which appeared broken into three pieces was greater than three feet long. This is crazy to contemplate, and Kathleen, at least, was entirely convinced she would not enjoy encountering such a large crustacean when it was alive.
We then ventured to Emerald Rock and the reef right by it for the last swim of the day. Everyone enjoyed this swim, with lots of fish, sea slugs (ick) and coral abounding. Kathleen saw another fish that she couldn’t identify and is anxiously awaiting some WiFi connection in Staniel Cay to do some research.
By sunset, the winds were starting to blow, so dinner was inside, but fresh breezes actually kept the temperature wonderful and with our mooring ball close to protective hills, even with higher winds (gusting to the high 20’s), there was not much rolling inside the boat.
March 5th was sunny with really high winds, so a day on the boat, with Kathleen practicing guitar and excercising, Neil working on this blog and all reading and relaxing. We have great philosphical, historical and political discussions, with the space and time to listen to each other, laugh a lot and learn about each other and ourselves. Tonight – Elaine has promised to teach us all Euchre.