Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Exuma Land and Sea Park

After Norman's Cay we were fortunate to be given a mooring ball inside at the Exuma Land and Sea Park at Waderwick Wick Wells.  The Park as everyone calls it is the crown jewel of the Bahamas National Trust which is their national park service.  There is no fishing, shelling, or conching allowed and unusual for the Bahamas these regulations are strictly enforced.  One new wrinkle that may interest old veterans of the Park is that the old practice of trading free mooring for volunteer work is being discouraged.  Almost everybody pays now.  Since there are three new Bahamian employees, the money has to come from somewhere.  Someone told me that the Exuma Park supplies 95% of the budget for the entire system of 23 parks in the Bahamas.  But for those who have on been here, trust me the fees are worthwhile.  I think that pictures can tell the story better than I can.

This is a pic of a Poisonwood tree.  Note the orange blotches on the trunk.  The poison wood tree was featured in the best seller the "Poisonwood Bible."

The slogan of the Park is "take only pictures and leave only foot prints."

A time honored tradition at the Park is to inscribe your boat's name on a piece of driftwood and leave in the pile at the top of Boo Boo Hill.  The boo boo name comes from the haunting sound made by the nearby blow holes.

Norman's Cay: the plane anchorage

I won't say much about Nassau except that it was OK.  We stayed at Nassau Harbor Club Marina.  I do not anchor in Nassau harbor itself.  Besides not being safe from pilferage, dragging is a problem due to the scoured and foul bottom.  Later in the week I overhead on the radio one skipper discussing resetting his anchor at midnight.  When he hauled the anchor up there was a 25 foot length of discarded garden hose wrapped around his flukes.  Nassau Harbor Club is across the street from Starbucks and the shopping mall so we did not have to go far to resupply.  Showers at the facility are cleaner than average for the Bahamas and the laundry room was nice.

The front that blew us down to Nassau stalled out to the north and 10 days of glorious weather was predicted.  We left at dawn for Highbourne Cay.  Just as White Pepper cleared the western entrance to Nassau Harbor she encountered a phenomenon that I did not believe existed in the Bahamas--dense fog.  Navigation was no problem as long as the chart plotter worked, but we were worried about getting run down by a fast moving mail boat.  By and by the fog cleared and revealed a lovely day to cross the Yellow Banks.  Readers with good memories will remember that on the last trip we sailed around the Yellow Banks which caused us nearly to get caught out in the dark.  This trip was perfect with calm water and bright sun overhead. In these conditions we could easily see the coral heads and steer around them.

By the time we got to Highbourne Cay a secondary low pressure system had formed in the stalled front and kicked a secondary front towards the south.  We had to find shelter.  The Allen's Cay just to the north would do, but we decided on the anchorage to the SE of Norman's Cay in the cut.  This spot is well known to cruisers as being marked by the ruins of a old plane that crashed in the shallows in the 70's.  The plane was one for the large fleet of drug running planes operated by the infamous Carlos Leiter when Norman's Cay was the center of a cocaine smuggling ring.  At one time the DEA estimated that 1/3 of the US supply of cocaine passed through the small airstrip on Norman's Cay.  We found a good spot about 50 yards from the plane wreck and settled in for the blow.  Jan and I spent an aggravating 3 days listening to the wind howl and worrying about the current switching back and forth.  However bad it got I only had to look out the port light and see the trusty, rusty plane to know that the Rocna was holding firm.