When we arrived here at about 12:30 today, the banks anchorage was packed, and the anchorage with a current only had two boats. Now we know why. The current seems to be running at about three knots. It's almost like we're back in Charleston, but instead of being attached to the megadock, we're anchored! Speaking of our anchor, it seems to be holding up quite well. We dinghyed around it this afternoon, and the current had totally buried the anchor and most of the chain. The anchor was completely out of sight under the sand. Even with the current and 18 knots of wind in the same direction we haven't moved and inch. Go Rocna! (Rocna is the make of our anchor)
After we got here, we put the 20hp engine on the dinghy and checked out the boats in the banks anchorage. We saw the boat that was next to us in Nassau. It's funny how everyone takes the same routes. We saw another boat that looked like the family from Nassau that was pulling out just when we pulled in. That was the boat with three girls and one boy. We dinghyed up to the boat and knocked on the hull. A sleepy looking man came up top and we told him we were looking for some friends, but must have the wrong boat. Oops! He mumbled two words and then went back down below.
There are lots of megayachts around here. They come to an anchorage, drop their hook, pull out their various jetskis, powerboats, tubes and toys, zoom around for an hour or two, and then leave. I find it kind of odd. It still seems so fast paced and unrelaxing.
Yesterday we spent all day at Allens Cay. We had a wonderful leisure filled day. There was school in the morning, and then the kids and I went exploring in the dinghy. We saw some great areas of bright purple and blue coral, but the current was pretty swift so we didn't jump in.
When we got back, Chris had started working on stripping, cleaning and greasing a winch. It was sounding squeaky on the sail to Allens. Not wanting him to work alone, I decided to work on cleaning the black soot from the generator exhaust that had deposited itself on the side of the
boat. Usually the magic eraser takes care of anything on the hull, but this soot was proving to be quite stubborn. After about an hour of scrubbing and reducing it to a dull grey, I decided to join the kids. They had been swimming and diving around the boat. They were finding all sorts of neat shells and sand dollars. The water was so clear it was amazing. You could dive down and see for quite a distance. I felt like I was standing on the bottom of an aquarium. There were not many fish, but seeing the contour of the sandy bottom was like looking over a mountain range. Hills and valleys, grassy areas and ditches filled with old conch shells led to a fuzzy darkness beyond.
The best part about swimming is that you have to lie in the sun for a good 1/2 hour or so to dry off. I usually have a beer and book in hand while doing this. Once dry, you can then rub off the layer of salt that has accumulated over your entire body. I'm starting to get used to the salt now. At first I couldn't stand jumping into the salty water. It tastes gross, and it would always go up my nose and sting. Now it doesn't seem to bother me as much and I'm almost at the point of calling a saltwater swim refreshing.
In the afternoon we went on one last trip to visit the iguanas. You just have to laugh out loud when you see them. They are quite chubby. When they run, their little legs push up, and their bellies kind of bounce along. It's quite comical! Apparently they can't see too well, so when you feed them, they don't always see the food. A piece of lettuce in front of a lizard might just sit there while they stare at you for more. I'm so glad we stopped at Allens Cay, it is definitely a place not to miss.
After that we got back to the boat, and Chris mentioned that he was a bit nervous about the boat hitting bottom. We were right next to a sand bar, and didn't want to hit it if the boat moved during the night. I begrudgingly jumped back into the water to scout out the depth. Ok, I really only did it to have another 1/2 hour of drinking beer and reading. As it turned out we had a whole foot under the keel to spare! The rest of the bottom around the boat looked pretty much the same depth. While in the water alone, I decided to do a bit more exploring. The current was almost slack, and it was much easier to swim than earlier in the day when I was with the kids. I found a bunch more sand dollars and some small live conch. These were the first live conch I had seen in the water! While exploring the bottom, I saw a trail of sorts and followed it. It led to a small conch shell, and when I turned it over, there was that familiar little snail foot sticking out. I was excited to find some bigger ones, but after searching a bit there were none to be found. There was a Bahamian boat anchored in front of us that sent out a smaller boat every day. I think they were looking for conch too, and maybe that's where all the big ones went to.
While I was exploring the conch, I saw something move in the sand. OMG!!!! It was a flounder!! I've been hoping for flounder ever since we ate that delicious one in Charleston! I had given up on them after reading that they mostly lived on cooler waters. I jumped to the surface and yelled for a net, a fork, a tickle stick, anything to get this flounder with! I ended up with our large fish net, which proved quite cumbersome to swim with. I went back to the same spot and was able to spot those two eyes sticking up in the sand. I placed the net over him and brought it down. Darn, I missed. Now he was aware of my presence and refused to be still for the net. Now realizing that he wasn't going to be dinner so easily, I gave up and brought the net back to the boat. I will have to get my yummy flounder another day.
Speaking of fish though, we caught a Jack on the way to Allens Cay. It was on the small side, but We're finding that small is better. The kids don't eat fish, and a small one is good for just Chris and I. We looked this one up in our book, and it said "excellent" next to food quality. By gosh they were right. It was a very dense white fleshed fish. I marinated it in lemon juice and grilled it with a bit of salt and garlic powder. The bones were huge and easy to pick out, making eating the meat a pleasure. The meat had no fishy taste to it whatsoever. That's my kind of fish. Oh, and for the fish enthusiasts, we caught it with a silver and metallic yellow spoon.
The sail from Allens to Normans Cay was a bit heavier than usual. We actually had to put a reef in the main and the jenny. Even with the reefs, we were going 6.5 knots! The waves were breaking over the bow, but all in all it was still a pleasant 3 hour sail. We put the line out in hopes of catching another fish, but had no luck.
There seems to be a bit more wildlife here. On the way to the banks anchorage we saw what looked like a stingray swimming very close to shore. Upon closer inspection we realized it was a small nurse shark. Oh joy! My swimming buddy from Bimini has followed us! At least he was pretty far from our boat. When the kids and I came back from exploring a bit later we saw another nurse shark up in front of the boat anchored next to us. Then when Chris and I were in the dinghy checking the anchor we saw something in the water. I figured it was the shark again, but this time it actually was a stingray. A very large black stingray. The rays are quite mesmerizing to watch. They seem so graceful, like birds, but in the water. Seeing the sharks seems to frighten me a bit less now. The ones we encountered all wanted nothing to do with the dinghy. whenever we got close, they would swim in the opposite direction. They seem more like frightened fish than fearless predators.
It's now 10:35 and we will be up another 45 minutes or so until the current finishes shifting around. Once we know the anchor is set in the new direction we can go to sleep. Tomorrow we will definitely move to the other anchorage!
Chris here - being tomorrow now, we have decided not to shift anchorages. The wind is dying down, and the Rocna has held firm in the sand, even with the 3kt current. We had a few scares last night when our anchor alarm went off, but it turns out the GPS had lost its fix and we were fine. If we move to the other anchorage, we'll have to worry about other boats and holding all over again. Getting used to anchoring is tough! You just don't have a good night's sleep. The one nice addition I have made is a mounting bracket right next to my head in our bunk. I can just glance up at it at any point and see where the boat is and if we've moved. Anyway, I think we're going to stay here through Sunday, and then head down toward Warderick Wells on Monday. We'd like to check out some caves in an area of Normans called "The Pond" and maybe snorkel off the wrecked airplane 1000ft from our boat. Unfortunately, we still haven't found any other kids for Casey and Kaitlin to play with, but we know they are out there!
By the way - I have to reiterate how beautiful it is down here. The water is crystal clear and you can see down to the sandy bottom. The sky is blue with wisps of clouds and the sun is shining strong. The temperature right now is probably about 75-78 with a nice breeze blowing in from Exuma Sound. It would be tough to find anything better.
They supposedly have WiFi at Warderick Wells, so I'll try to post some pictures when we get there. Right now I'm coming to you via our satellite phone, which at least gives us the ability to do e-mail.