Where is YOLO?

...Off to the Sea for Adventure

...Off to the Sea for Adventure

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Exumas are our playground

The Exuma Cays are the most beautiful and rugged paradise we have encountered so far.  We left Nassau after 3 days it wasn’t our kind of place.  We didn’t like the big busy city, the tourist traps, and especially hated worrying about security and locking the dinghy up at the dock.  It was only a short daysail to reach Allens Cay, which is famous for its rare breed of Bahamian iguanas.  First, one iguana came toward us, as soon as we landed on the beach.  Soon there were more than 30 of the strange looking lizards surrounding us and wanting food.  They weren’t satisfied with the carrots that we brought for them but still came too close for comfort.  The anchorage at Allens Cay was nice and the island is deserted but it is busy with boat traffic since it’s so close to Nassau.  

Atlantis resort in Nassau was nice, but you need more money than we have to fully appreciate it.  We were only allowed in the casino and at one public beach on Paradise island.  We had to get out of Nassau!

The next day we headed further down the chain of Exuma islands to Normans Cay.  This island was once home to a drug smuggling cartel and cruisers weren’t allowed to stop there.  Now the only evidence of its rough past are several shot up buildings on the island and a large twin engine smuggling plane that crashed in the same bay that we anchored in.  It is a DC-3 and sits fully intact in about 8 feet of water.  As pilots we thought this was the greatest place to snorkel and swimming through the old airplane was a blast. 

Here is our Phenomenal anchorage at Allen's Cay.  We found these old ruins whilst running from the iguanas.

Look closely at all those black lizards on the beach!  Lance is scared in this picture, because they sneak up on you when you turn your back!

The island is mostly deserted but has a few buildings and an airstrip.  We walked across the runway to find “McDuffs” a chill island bar that we had read about.  The owner/bartender poured us some Kalics (Bahamian beer) and we met another pilot named Clyde.  He blew the tire on the nose wheel of his Baron and was stuck on the island for a couple days.  A new wheel was on its way and when it got there we helped him put it on.  He had another trip to Norman Cay the next day and offered to bring us a case of beer from Fort Lauderdale.  Unfortunately we never got it.  Clyde, if you are reading this we are anchored next to Thunderball cave at Staniel Cay now, if you are flying by you should drop the beer to us on a parachute.  Click on the link to see our exact SPOT position and try to drop it as close to YOLO as you can.  I’m only joking, but that would be the coolest way to deliver beer ever!  By the way Clyde was that you that gave us a low pass in the Baron at Warderick Wells last weekend?  It was pretty awesome!

The DC-3 wreck at Norman's was cool

There was a cold front coming from the north and bringing strong winds so we had to find a safe place to wait it out.  The Exuma Land and Sea Park is a protected area where no fishing or taking of lobster is allowed and a place called Warderick Wells right in the middle of it offers protection from the wind and mooring balls to tie onto.  We got there on a beautiful Saturday and found out there was a happy hour on the beach that night for all 22 boats that were in the park.  After a hike up to BooBoo hill where cruisers leave pieces of driftwood with the name of their boat carved in as a gift to the weather gods, we wound up on the beach where the happy hour party was going on.  It was finally a chance to meet the other cruisers that we are sharing the crystal clear waters of the Bahamas with!  One younger guy from Chile named Sebastian was equally happier to meet other cruiser under 50.  The net day we went snorkeling together and saw a plethora of lobster the size of Lance Armstrong’s legs.  It was forbidden to capture them or to spear the huge grouper in the park, but it got us excited for future chances of harvesting these delicious sea creatures.  We spent 2 days dancing at our mooring in 30 knots of wind, grateful for the ball bedded into the rock below.  On the cold and windy day we hiked back up BooBoo hill with Sebastion, his father Fred, and Fred’s wife Michelle.  At the top we got a chance to leave the piece of driftwood with YOLO carved into it as a gift to the weather gods.  Watching the waves crash into the cliffs and water shooting out of the blowholes was a good reminder of how powerful the sea really is. 

This skeleton from a 52 foot Sperm whale was at Warderick Wells where we stayed for 3 days to wait out the weather.

Made another friend

Exploring WW with our old dinghy and new friend Sebastion

BooBoo hill

Cruisers spend a lot of time carving and painting on driftwood.  Notice YOLO in the middle.

On Tuesday we departed Warderick Wells behind the front and rode the 20 knot winds to Compass Cay.  Our new friends from Chile also sailed their 42 foot Catamaran alongside us and we anchored together again.  Michelle cooked us a fantastic dinner aboard “TIKI” and we had a late night telling stories and learning about each others cultures.  The next morning we all went snorkeling/spearfishing in their fast dinghy since our old orange one won’t hold air and is giving Lance and I more stress than we should ever have in the islands.  We were outside of the protected park and finally got a chance to harvest some fruits of the sea.  We speared two lobsters, one small and one enormous with a fat tail!  Then we also speared three small fish one Bar Jack, a Yellowtail snapper, and one reddish fish with big eyes that we couldn’t identify.  That night Michelle and Fred cooked the lobster for us with white wine and there was enough for all five of us to feast!

Fred, Michelle, and Sebastion aboard their fast dinghy at Compass Cay

Spearfishing is like underwater hunting and we are addicted

Leaving Compass cay was relaxing because we only had about 10 miles to cover in order to reach Staniel Cay.  We took our time and did some trolling behind the boat out in the deeper water along the way.  Just after leaving the compass cut I heard the fishing reel zipping away and landed another fish.  We identified this one to be a Horse-eyed Jack and it was good eating size.  The place where “TIKI” and “YOLO” anchored is beautiful, and our boat is still there.  It is close to the small town and yacht club on Staniel Cay, and it is right next to the Thunderball cave.  Thunderball Grotto was featured in the Bond movie by the same name, and also in a Disney movie called “Splash.”  Sebastion, Lance and I swam right to the entrance from our boats and after snorkeling through the small hole we were amazed at the size of the Grotto.  The cave opens up into a huge dome about 20 feet tall with countless colorful fish schooling inside.  We even found another entrance on the other side that was closer to our boat so we left that way, what a beautiful place!  After the swim Lance and I were eager to find some civilization so were took our dilapidated dinghy to shore.  Whilst trying to find the dump we stumbled upon a gorgeous hiking trail which went along the top of a ridge north of the village.  Eventually we did find a place to throw away our trash and found an abandoned hard-bottom dinghy much better than ours.  The day turned into a quest to find the owner of it and it appears that no one on the island knows whose it is.  We found a neat little library and ran into the “TIKI” crew, together we walked to a small market and stocked up on some very expensive perishables.  

Horse-eyed Jack caught whilst trolling

Once again we were spoiled by Michelle with another great dinner made from the fish we speared and caught.  There were several sharks attracted to their catamaran because of the fish guts/heads that Sebastion dumped overboard.  We had the bright idea of putting one fish head on a hook and trying to catch one of the massive nurse sharks.  Well guess what?  The frickin shark ate it and suddenly Lance had to reel in a feisty shark that we thought to be about 6 feet long!  After it put up quite a fight Sebastian netted the beast and luckily it turned out to be only about 4 feet long.  His dad was on the internet and identified it as a Lemon Shark.  There was a lot of meat and we wanted to eat it, so we googled “how to fillet and cook shark” Lance spent about an hour cleaning and skinning and cutting it up into fillet sized pieces.  Now both our freezers are full of the shark meat and we’ve eaten two Lemon Shark steaks already which actually turned out to be quite tantalizing!  The Chileans had to leave for Georgetown early yesterday and we are already missing our cruising buddies.  I’m sure we shall find them again in Georgetown.

Shark!!!! made for an exciting evening

Feeding a wild pig at the beach.  Supposedly they swim but we couldn't get him to.

We got a lead on another dinghy several miles away on Fowl Key and made the long trek in the old deflating dink all the way.  It turned out to be a good deal on a blue Achilles with a wood floor and we bought it!  We named it Papa Smurf and it rides nice, about twice as fast as the old one, even with the same 3 hp engine!  On the way back to YOLO we towed the old dink behind the smurf and saw another boat registered in St. Paul.  Of course we had to investigate and we found a friendly couple in the cockpit enjoying Lobster sandwiches.  Their boat is called “Antigone” and they are from Lindstrom, MN the same small town as my Aunt, Uncle, and cousins.  They didn’t know my family but only spend the summers in MN.  They called us later on the radio and invited us back for conch fritters at happy hour and we were happy to attend.  The fritters were delicious and the rum was flowing like a waterfall, it made for a fun dinghy trip back in our new ride in the dark. 

The old yellar and the new Papa Smurf!
Now we are sitting at Staniel Cay yacht club.  A very cool island bar that has internet and pool!  Today our goal is to bring our old dinghy to the boatyard where captain Tony gave us permission to leave it.  Staniel cay has a great community and is my favorite island of the trip so far.  We will probably be back after Xmas for the big Pirate Party and new years regatta. 

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