Nassau turned out to be a great place to stay while we waited out bad weather since we had access to a free dinghy dock, free WIFI, a grocery store, laundry facilities, and places to eat out. We checked out the Fish Fry, which is an area by the waterfront with 50 or so small adjoining outside restaurants owned by locals. Conch is a very popular dish in the Bahamas and is served in a variety of ways….conch fritters, cracked conch, conch salad, fried conch, grilled conch (you get the picture). We enjoyed some fritters, fried conch, and a couple of Kaliks (Bahamian beer) while we sat at the outside bar watching a small preview of the Junkanoo Carnival that would be hosted the following weekend. The next day we walked across the bridge that connects New Providence to Paradise Island to get in some beach time. Before we headed to the beach though, we went to a time share presentation. I know what you are about to say because I said it to…why in the heck would you go to something like that. I told David, “Nuh-uh, we are not going.” He said, “But we get a free breakfast AND $50 out of it.” I said it wasn’t worth it, and I would feel guilty getting free stuff when we knew going in that we wouldn’t buy into something like that. Well, we went anyway, and we left three hours later frustrated (or I did) and $50 richer (even though they didn’t want to give it to us once we said no). We had lunch on them at Anthony’s and then made our way to the beach. There was a stark contrast from the mainland of Nassau and Paradise Island, which should be expected since Paradise Island is made up of only hotels, condos, restaurants, and shopping centers. All of Paradise Island looked like a vacation resort with colorful buildings, manicured grass, and palm trees lining the streets whereas the other side of the bridge represented a normal, real Caribbean town. We walked to Cabbage beach, which is the beach where a lot of the cruise line passengers go. The surf was really rough, and I wasn’t brave enough to venture out into the water so I lounged on the beach watching other people get knocked down by waves and go tumbling through the water. It was kind of funny.
We were finally able to leave Nassau on May 6th and sailed to Highborne Cay (pronounced key) in the Exumas, which was about 30 nautical miles southeast of Nassau. I read that the Exuma Cays are made up of around 360 cays and form one of the best cruising grounds in the Bahamas (if not the world). And so far, we have not been disappointed. In fact, I have been wowed by this area and have taken a ton of pictures. I had been waiting to get here since we started the trip and felt that I could truly relax once we arrived. Once we dropped the anchor at Highborne, we moved the dinghy from the deck to the water and made the short trip to Allan’s Cay to see the iguanas. There we saw Sue and Jack from S/V My Weigh, who we had met the prior week at the Berry Island Club at Frazier’s Cay and had also run into during our stay in Nassau. They invited us to join them and their visiting friends for a glass of wine so after a few photos and a short swim, we headed to their boat for a short visit.
Highborne Cay is a private island, and there wasn’t much to see or do besides snorkeling so we left the next day for Norman’s Cay. The Exumas are almost an unbroken chain of islands so it doesn’t take long to get from one to the next. Once we anchored, I did a couple of cannonballs off the boat (it was my first jump off Dulcinea) to celebrate being here and being anchored for the first time in crystal clear water. We were finally in Paradise!
Norman’s Cay used to be controlled by a drug runner in the late 70s and early 80s, who had drugs flown in from Colombia, repackaged, and flown out to the US. There is a plane wreck from a shipment gone wrong at the south end of the island, and it is a popular snorkeling spot so we went to check it out. Apparently, the fish there are used to being fed, and they kept eyeballing us and following us around. It was the first time I’ve been snorkeling at something other than a coral reef, and it was a unique experience. After that, we went to explore the island and came upon a shallow lagoon hugged by a couple of small cays. It was gorgeous!! We were making our way to land and saw a dark shadow pass by the dinghy. It was a nurse shark so I quickly put on my snorkel gear and jumped out of the boat (it was only 2 or 3 feet deep here). I tried to chase it down but didn’t have any luck getting a close up. Those suckers are fast! Crazily enough I did get a good photo of it by putting my underwater camera in the water when I was still on the dinghy and blindly snapping a couple of pictures. Next we saw a huge red starfish, which of course I had to pick up and take a picture with. After our wildlife adventure was over, we relaxed on a deserted beach, swam, did some beachcombing, and then went back to the boat. I could get use to spending every day like that.
Next up was Shroud Cay, which was our first uninhabited island. We got there on May 9th and spent two days on this picturesque island. A bight (like a creek) runs from the west side of the island all the way through to the east side. We anchored on the west side and took the dinghy for some sightseeing through the bight. It was like being on the lazy river at Hurricane Harbor but lined with mangroves and tree covered hills. And the best part was the beach where it empties out to the sea on the east side. It was the most exquisite beach I have ever seen. From the opening of the bight, there was a beach to the left and to the right. A rounded sandbar connected the two beaches and created a natural shallow swimming pool that led back into the bight, which was also had shallow crystal clear water. It was simply beautiful. After making a cozy spot for ourselves on the beach, David napped and I hiked the short trip up to Camp Driftwood. I’m not sure why it is called that since there isn’t anything up there, but the view was incredible. I had a panoramic view of the beach, miles and miles of sea, the bight snaking its way through the island, and the west side of the island where Dulcinea was anchored. I was in awe of my surroundings and just stood for a few minutes soaking up the beauty. It had instantly become my favorite spot in the Exumas. We spent the rest of the day at the beach reading, soaking up the rays, listening to the waves crash, and reveling in the fact that we had the whole place to ourselves.
We left Shroud Cay on May 12th and made our way to Warderick Wells, which houses the headquarters for the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. The park was established over 50 years ago, and its purpose is to protect the marine life and the land within the twenty-two mile area. We went to the headquarters early the next morning to get a map of the island and then hiked to Boo Boo Hill, which is haunted by the way. The story goes that there was a missionary ship that went aground on a reef and sank, and there was not a single survivor. Supposedly on moonlit nights when the wind is howling, you can hear the ghosts singing hymns. Once we got to the top of the hill, we saw the pile of driftwood that has accumulated over the years from cruisers leaving behind a memento with the name of their boat. Unfortunately, we forgot to pick up a piece of driftwood before our excursion and didn’t see any laying around on the beach. Oh well…maybe next time. The view from up there was stunning. Next we went to snorkel at the nearby coral garden, and it was the best coral I’ve ever seen. There was an abundance of brightly colored fish, and we even saw a huge spiny lobster out in the open (the ones I’ve always seen are hidden away under the coral). We were fighting a strong current, and it tired us out after about thirty minutes so we left. Then we took a short dinghy trip to Beryl trail and hiked up to the ruins of a Loyalist plantation. The ruins were comprised of two small broken down stone buildings, which weren’t very interesting. After the hike, we were hot, tired, and in need of shade so we called it a day.
This morning, May 14th, we snorkeled at Malabar Cay, where we saw the largest conch we’ve ever seen. It was massive! David has been wanting to find a conch big enough to eat, but there’s a strict park rule about not taking anything from the park. So Mr. Conch lives to see another day. After snorkeling, we left for Fowl Cay, which is where we are currently anchored. David went for a quick swim and found two Shakespeare fishing poles at the bottom of the seafloor, which apparently are too good not to keep so we now have two new poles. I swear this boat is going to be filled with stuff David finds out and about on our adventures by the time we get back to Texas – those aren’t the first used items that’s found their way onto our boat. I do secretly think it’s funny even though I give him a hard time about it.Hopefully it won't take me so long to post the next entry. We haven't had reliable cell service since we left Nassau so it's been hard keeping up with the blog.