S/V Delilah

A Blog to track the wanderings of the S/V Delilah, a 37-foot Tayana sailboat.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Exumas at last

January 20, Hawksbill Cay
N 24 degrees 28.08 minutes
W 076 degrees 46.12 minutes

On wednesday, the weather moderated enough for us to
sail from Rock Sound, where we had spent a full week
and attended (and hosted) our first cruisers' happy
hours, to Norman's Cay in the northern part of the
Exumas island chain. Norman's used to be the
headquarters for a major drug smuggler in the 70s and
80s, and when we entered the southern anchorage, we
saw the remains of a half-sunken airplane that had
been ditched twenty years ago. Ashore are the ruins of
a few houses with some very 80s wallpaper still
clinging to the interior.

Norman's has a large area of protected, shallow water
to explore, with a number of mangrove patches and
great beaches, and we took the dinghy all over the
island. At one point, when we were in only two or
three feet of water, we watched a ray, five or six
feet across at its widest point, swim out from under
our dinghy.

Norman's is sparsely inhabited, but we had read that a
small restaurant was open several days a week near
some rental villas on the island, and that they served
great hamburgers. We made our way over to the western
part of the island for a late lunch.

We beached our dinghy, Digby, near more ruins from the
drug running days, scrambled through an old garbage
dump, walked along a gorgeous, empty, miles-long
beach, located the old airstrip, which is still in use
for charter planes, and finally found what looked like
MacDuffs, hoping they were still serving lunch. Except
there was a sign next to the villas explaining that
MacDuffs was gone. Private property. Registered guests
only. Blah, blah, blah.

The current moves very swiftly through Norman's Cay,
and the wind was moving through very swiftly as well.
All that was fine, except when the current switched
direction and was going against the wind. Delilah
didn't know which way to point, so she did a bad job
of it. No sleep for us.

This morning we got up (no need to say "woke up") for
the 6:30 weather report, and hearing that we'd have
more of the same for the next few days, we make our
way out of Norman's Cay and over to Hawksbill Cay,
which I read has great beaches.

The area in the Exumas starting immediately below
Norman's, and including Hawksbill, is all part of the
Exumas National Land and Sea Park. The islands and the
water around them are parkland, so fishing and shell
collecting are not allowed. The water is very clear,
the islands are all ours, and the snorkeling reveals
some very large fish who seem to know better than to
swim outside the park's boundaries.

We anchored near four other sailboats (three of which
we'd seen at other anchorages but had net met the
occupants), dinghied ashore, did a little snorkeling,
and then climbed to the top of the bluff to take in
the magnificence of the island and the water
surrounding it. This view, the sun, the green and aqua
water, and the white beach were just what I had in
mind to put up with all those winters on the boat in
Boston Harbor. This is exactly the kind of place I
imagined we would go when we first bought Delilah
almost five years ago. And we are really here. Wow.

All of the other sailors around us in this anchorage
are near our age, and all but one are making this
journey for the first time. It's a bit unusual, as
most of the people we've met up to now are retired and
have made the trip to the Bahamas and back a number of
times already. We had become used to being the
greenhorns with an old boat and lots of inexperience,
so it's intersting to talk to other people for whom
this is also brand new, and whose boats aren't
necessarily loaded with the latest equipment.

Toward the afternoon, without planning it, everyone
wound up hanging out on the beach and talking
together. One of the sailors went back to his boat and
reappeared with a cooler full of drinks, and we had
happy hour on the beach while the sun went down. I
wouldn't dream of leaving here tomorrow to go anywhere

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