Saturday 6 August
Thanks to Emily have become "Remants of Emily" on the Thursday evening, our decision not to postpone the cruise paid off. At 10 am on Saturday, we met Captain Mark at the Yacht Haven Marina. Stray Cat is a beautiful catamaran with 5 cabins. Jessie, I and Alex are in one wing, Brigitte Chris and Mark are in the other wing, Rachel and Joachim are in an outside cabin accessed from the deck.
After a large shopping expedition followed by an unusual stop in a sex shop that also sold alcohol (no details but really curious!!), we left the Marina around 1 pm. The sky was grey but the wind so good and so we decided to try to get to the Exhumas that night (a long treck of 40 miles).The sea was formed and after an hour or so, the waves were quite close by so the boat was bumping along quite uncomfortably, and Mark decided that it would be too long a ride against the waves for a first day. So we turned round and went to a private island "Rose island" where there is a very narrow entrance man made in the cliff and a very peaceful shelter in the middle. We moored at a pontoon next to a Canadian cat (Friends of Mark). The skies cleared up and we have nice swim and rest. Peaceful evening. We made spaghetti bolognaise for the team.
Woke up early because it was really hot during the night. We left around 8.30-9 am. The wind was south-southwest and turning as a sinusoidal throughout. We had a lovely sail averaging around 6-7 knots. We had to tack constantly and so after 30 miles, we put the engine on and motorsailed for the last 12 miles. We got to Allen Cay around 4 pm. Beautiful turquoise waters. Mark took us in the dinghy towards a reef for snorkling. It was very beautiful, lots of colored fish and corals. We then went towards a beach full of Iguananas. Gold sand, birds and lots of ignuanas of different sizes. Joachim who has a natural talent for reptiles started taming them, following the alligator demonstration that we saw in the Everglades. We knicknamed him "Jiguan". Alex got bitten on his finger trying to feed the iguanas leaves as they are blind and want to eat anything that moves .. We also saw a fisherman's boat sorting out lots of conchs. They sold us some fresh lobster ! This beautiful day ended with a culinary feast orchestrated by chef Mark on the outside barbecues: lobster, chicken and corn on the cob. Beautiful evening under the stars.
Boat woke up quite late. It was decided to have a snorkelling day. After taking pictures of the iguanas, we motored to Highborne Cay, a private island where there is the possibility to buy ice and refuel which we did. We were expecting to see sharks on the way but they did not turn up au rendez vous. Went round the island to snorkel in a beautiful reef. Joachim came back in a haste after being pursued by a large barracuda. Mark explained that they are territorial but that they don't attack and that you should ignore them. Beautiful reef with lots of different corals, and many different kinds of colored fish and a few rays. Like a forest under sea. In the afternoon we motored to the other side of the island to anchor for the night. Happy evening under the stars. During the night, some lightening and wind got up for a while, but no rain.
Some of us swam in the morning and then we took to go to Norman's Cay. We had a lovely sail with light winds (averaging 5-6 knots). We also put out fishing lines but did not catch anything but weeds ... We anchored around 3 in a beautiful bay called whale tail. The reef was quite sandy and beaten up by the storm so it was less colourful than the day before. After the snorkelling and swimming, we then went to Norman Cay cut, a beautiful bay with a paradise "one coconut tree island" in the distance, which we fell in love with. In the evening we set off in the dinghy to the key, to go to Mc Duff's restaurant. Mc Duff's restaurant was fun, we ate conch fritters, and fish, and drank rum cocktails. The veranda in front of the restaurant was very much out of a book on the Caraibians, wicker chairs, low tables, a beautiful view and lots of mosquitos! The toilets were secluded in nature, quite unique. We hurried back to the boat as lightning and black clouds were amassing over our heads. The air was fresh and the breeze was strong. In the end the storm passed over.
Set off in the morning towards Exhumas landsea park, a national park on a small group of islands, about 12 miles south of Norman's Cay. No wind, so we had to motor all the way. As we approached, we started to discover a symphony of colors, from light green to emerald green and blue. Truly amazing. We tied up to a buoy and got ready to swim when .... Mark called out -- look at the shark! We saw a shadow and all thought he was joking. As soon as we set foot on the ladder, we clearly saw a nurse shark swimming around, not too far from the surface, with little grey fish attached to his back. What a sight. After a while some of us started to get ready to snorkel, as this shark is not dangerous. There was an old wreck beneath our boat, which "housed" many species of fish. Top and king of the castle was a big "bar", with a lovely yellow tail, which swam around quite close to the surface, surveying his kingdom. Lower down were families of fish of all colors. Brigitte was the last to come back enjoying the observation of the various fish around the shipwreck but still keeping an eye on the amazing nurse shark who was laying still on the bottom water bed with his four personal parasite cleaners hooked on him. Marks told us they are called remuras. Later on as Jessie was going in the water with Alex, a massive barracuda swam by which scared them!
Towards the evening, we went in the dinghy and onto the pontoon where the wardens of the park have a little exhibition. On the beach are the bones of a big whale! Quite impressive. Little breeze in the evening, so the night was quite hot.
This is our last day and we started early (around 8 am) to make our way back towards Nassau. The few days went very quickly. We first motored to Highborne Cay to get some fuel for the dinghy, some ice and some cold drinks. We were hoping to get some wind in the afternoon and to sail back to Rose island, but the weather was overcast, heavy, and the wind did not get up. Around 4 we arrived at Rose island and anchored round the back of the island near a large reef. Everybody was very happy to be able to swim and snorkel after such a long day on the motor. The view behind Rose island is spectacular, with the world famous island of Gilligan's Island (10 coconut trees) in the background. The reef was spectacular by its width, interesting relief around its edge, some many different corals, sponges, forest like branches and fans, and colourful fish swimming gently around. Xian, Alex and Joachim dived for conch shells and managed to retrieve some beautiful ones quite deep. Lovely sunset and twilight. Tomorrow we will go to Nassau marina in the morning.
We had a wonderful week, discovered a beautiful undersea world, enjoyed the sailing and the company and got a taste of the very special atmosphere of the Exhumas. We are very grateful to captain Mark for sharing this with us.
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