We arrived in Normans Cay after a sail in mostly light winds. We were able to head dead down wind to leave the Park. Then making a couple of course changes once around the sand bore. Then it was a path on the reach. Once around Elbow Cay the wind changed to gusty and a little more to the north. I had to take over from the autopilot to make such a course to windward. We managed to sail all the way from the park to just past Taffia Point at which time my Tinley hat was caught by one of the gusts and went for a swim. So we motored around for a couple of loops to get it close to the hull and rescued the overboard “crew”. With the motor already running we headed straight for the anchorage in front of McDuff's.
Our fuel usage is great now that we are not “beating to windward”. We motored for a half mile leaving Staniel Cay to clear a rock cay and a half mile here today. We sailed into and out of the anchorage at Warderick Wells. That equals about 1 mile out of 36-38 miles. With all the sand bore dodging and course changes I think we are doing well.
By sailing instead of motor sailing it put as sitting down in McDuff's at 3:20. Lunch is over at 3pm! McDuff graciously agreed to make us a burger anyway and lunch was in progress. But beware this burger is $18.00 (we split one). It has been the best burger yet here in the Bahamas. Large 5” sesame seed bun, lettuce, tomato all served with fries on a stoneware plate. It was only missing a linen napkin. This was a perfect “$10.00” burger. McDuff also does well with cruiser conversation and he and the Fisher King talked shells and fish. Three other cruisers showed up wanting lunch but they were out of luck as it was now 4pm, lunch was over and orders for dinner had already been taken. After getting an abbreviated weather forecast from them we headed out.
We decided to check out the other side of the peninsula as this was our snorkeling destination the next day. So off on foot we went down the beaten white limestone road. Strewn with pine trees and lizards the road headed south east. We could see the remnants of Carlos' house on the hill but didn't take the usual cruiser detour to explore. Maybe next time. We did find the current island dump at the end of the road before returning to the dock where out on the north side of the channel were anchored 8 boats. Hmmmm! Would there be any conch left when we get here tomorrow?
The next morning we awoke to a massive dark cloud between us and the sun. Early morning became a lounge around session watching the balance of “The Fellowship Of The Ring”. When it was completed we found rays of sunlight shinning randomly around us. We double checked our list, the one in my head, for snorkeling and a long dinghy ride. When all was okay off we went. From the beach anchorage to the dock is slightly more than a mile. We are used to a mile row at marathon but here in the Bahamas it is different. There are tidal currents, winds and endless bars and shallow rocks all making it longer or more difficult. Once we made it to our “charted destination” (thanks s/v Way Happy) we anchored a little off the dock.
We anchored in one of the largest grass flats we have encountered here in the Bahamas. We snorkeled out from the dinghy a long way to the NE then South with no luck. Then as the Fisher King was starting to request passage to the dock to try his luck with a spear we found our first conch. Then another and another. We returned to the dinghy to unload the bounty. I requested one more swim South of the last conch we found and then the dock. The Fisher King agreed. We found our limit on conch and then some. Filling the dinghy as the load was getting to heavy to stay afloat and carry them in hand. We even found a large horse conch. At the dock there were a couple of lion fish and a small grouper. But the grouper eluded us, hiding inside a huge derelict control console from a large power boat. We did find a banded tulip shell for the collection of the King's new found interest.
Collection of conch shells in the dinghy
Stop number two was on the small cay with a single palm tree. Such a picturesque place. There are a couple of dedications here one in stone and one on the resting bench. We stretched our legs and got some time to relax. Or at least I thought we would... the Fisher King was impatient wanting to snorkel for more shells and nothing here pleased him.
We rowed over to the next cay which was only about 75 to 100 feet. The Fisher King went over the side and started his search as a powered the chase boat. After placing a couple of flamingo tongues into the dinghy his next trip down was followed by the wide eyed yell coming from his snorkel, “Brrooopooor!”. Which translates into “Grouper!” So with the chance for fresh fish again, it has been a while, I put on my fins and went in with him. Now to find a place to set the anchor in the high current zone. Once set and partially protected in a small cove (25' x 10') we went off in search for fresh fish. We found a couple more conch before finding any grouper. After coral watching for a short while The Fisher King motioned that a something was behind the next coral head. Being unable to see from my angle I assumed it was a grouper from his intensity. I slowly circled and was just able to see the face of a lunch sized grouper peering out of a hole in the coral. I slowly drifted out of his site and moved to come in from the best angle for attack with the sling. I have still yet to take a grouper with the sling as most of our adventure the pole spear was acceptable. But now in the land of small, afraid for their lives, groupers I decided the sling with it's “bow and arrow” approach could get me more shots at our food supply. I slowly came in range and he sat motionless as I released the shaft. A direct hit from 6-7 feet away! I finally hit a grouper with the sling. We have lunch! While taking a few more minutes to hunt dinner The King and I both found dinner sized grouper at the same time in different places. Neither of us could get a shot before they retreated deep into the coral heads.
I got into the dinghy and pulled the anchor as The Fisher King kept looking for shells. As I arranged the conch shells to make room for both of us and the booty of today's hunt I noticed a dark shadow nearing the dinghy. After a couple of moments it was clear that is was not a 5 foot barracuda but a 6-7 foot shark. I quickly turned and tried to get The Fisher King's attention, which took a few seconds. Once I had his attention I told him to go to the rock where I anchored the dinghy and get on top of it and I would pick him up. Once in the dinghy I pointed out the new friend we had acquired. Of course he was checking out the small blood trail from the grouper, which was amazing as the head shot had very little blood. The original concern was that it was a tiger shark because as the light shown through the water it make stripes across his torso. After seeing the images from the GoPro it is but a reef shark, still requiring our respect, but not as apt to attack as the more aggressive species. So with Tin out of the water we were able to take a few portraits of our new friend as we sorted out the conch and tossed some of the smaller ones back. Today's catch 16 conch (six of which got tossed back a being the small one of the group to keep us at the limit of 10), one grouper and a tulip shell.
During all the adventures of the day we forgot to check out the submerged airplane. Oh well that can be another adventure.