Saturday, April 2, 2011

Two Cays at the Park

Posted: December 29, 12:56 pm | (permalink) | (0 comments)
 I've been utterly captivated by this fishing float at Park headquarters

We motorsailed from Highbourne marina to take a mooring at Shroud Cay in the Exuma Land and Sea Park (their version of a national wildlife refuge) on a cool, gray day with mild winds 15 knots out of the north. We were very pleased with our navigation and ended up picking a mooring that would shelter us well from the strong north and east winds expected the next couple of days. We were looking forward to exploring the low, shrubby, and utterly pristine island.

Unfortunately, there was no exploring to be done as winds increased the next day to 20 knots with near gale-force gusts, a heavy overcast, and rain. We hang out, reading novels and making a big pot of black bean chili. It seems weird to me that these were just the things we’d do at home on a blustery day, then it sinks in: we are at home. When we’re below, it’s almost the same whether we’re in our slip in Annapolis or the marshes of Georgia or a mooring in the Exumas. Well, it is the same, and it isn’t. It is, in that I’m surrounded by my familiar art, cooking pans, and possessions. Living aboard, I get to see the world without leaving the comforts of home. But also, it isn’t the same. The scene for Decmeber on the wall calendar is a photo of snow-covered evergreens along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I stick my head out the companionway hatch and look at turquoise water and thatch palms and mangroves and I’m struck again by the impossible to reconcile: I’m simultaneously at home, and away from home.

We found an inflatable kayak at LL Bean several years ago. It has a clear plastic panel in the bottom – sadly, not much use in the Chesapeake but here the tropical water is so wonderfully transparent and we can sit in the kayak and watch the fish swimming past beneath us. We inflated the kayak and went paddling through the mangroves at the south end of the island that we’ve been gazing at. Mangroves are often described as fish nurseries – baby fish live and grow up among their dense roots, in protected spaces too small for predators to enter.

We wake up around midnight on Xmas Eve and the boat is rocking uncomfortably. The wind has shifted from the northeast around toward the south, where there is just a stretch of ocean for waves to build and no shelter. Ugh! Time to move on. A fifteen-mile sail brought us to the Park headquarters at Warderick Wells Cay. The last hour or so we were sailing at 6 knots, blue water, warm breeze, sunny sky – one of the more unusual Xmas Days I’ve spent. There is so much natural beauty to explore here! On clear days when the sun shines brightly illuminating the coral reefs through the water, we snorkel. On cool, cloudy days, we hike. Here’s one for my friends and former colleagues at US Geological Survey: on several hikes we’ve seen what they refer to here as “musical rocks.” These are limestone from which much of the cementing between the grains has been dissolved away. The remaining grainy rock is very light for its size and rings like a bell when struck with another rock -- or when it wobbles as we walk over it, giving us an unsteady footing, but adding unusual sounds to our hike.
(originally posted 29 December 2009)

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